I know about the big stripey cat, but what is "a tiger" in this context:

...finishing up with cheers and a tiger for "Hadleyburg purity and our eighteen immortal representatives of it."

(from The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg by Mark Twain)

I've seen it in others of his writings, and those by other people. Apparently it is a particular gesture, but what, exactly?


1 Answer 1


It's mentioned in the The Hawaiian Archipelago (1831–1904). Essentially three cheers followed by a loud growl from the crowd (the "tiger").

On the king's appearance, the cheering was tremendous,—regular British cheering, well led, succeeded by that which is not British, “three cheers and a tiger ,” but it was “Hi, hi, hi, hullah!”

There's another description mentioned here from an article called The Artilleryman's Glossary, apparently dating from the 1870s.

THREE CHEERS AND A TIGER - when "Three cheers and a tiger" was called for, there is division as to what that represented. There is no apparent dispute that the first portion - the "Three cheers" - represented three "Hurrahs!". The "tiger" portion of that is argued as either a growl from the crowd, slowly rising in volume and pitch until it became a roar of approbation; while others contend that it the addition of the chant "Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!" at the end of the third "Hurrah!", the series of "Hi!"'s also rising in both volume and pitch.

Evidently the Princeton University cheer used to include a "tiger".

Multiple cheers evolved throughout the latter half of the 19th century, including "The Tiger," "The Rocket," "The Princeton Cheer" and "The Tiger and Rocket," which morphed and intertwined over time, including:

Rah! Rah! Rah! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!
Hooray, hooray, hooray! Tiger siss-boom-ah, Princeton!

And we also have an example within the story itself

EVERYBODY. (Except Stephenson, who bows with hand on heart) Hip—hip—hip: hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!

GR. Der Tiger—ah-h-h!

  • 1
    To corroborate from within the Twain story itself: "EVERYBODY. (Except Stephenson, who bows with hand on heart): Hip--hip--hip: hurrah, hurrah, hurra"/"GR. Der Tiger--ah-h-h!" ( gutenberg.org/files/3251/3251-0.txt )
    – Yorik
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 22:43
  • @Yorik - Good point, that chap.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 22:45
  • 3
    The Tigers are the athletic teams of Princeton, so I'm not sure that the presence of the word "tiger" in their school cheers is connected to the cheer described in your second quote. Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 15:43

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