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Brouhaha

A brouhaha is a fuss or a commotion, especially one over something of exaggerated importance.1 The word came to English from French in the late 19th century, and it is used throughout the English-speaking world. The earliest known instance of the word in English is from the American writer Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1891 book Over the Teacups:

“Yes,” he answered, modestly, “I enjoy the brouhaha, if you choose to consider it such, of all this quarrelsome menagerie of noise-making machines, brought into order and harmony by the presiding genius.”

But the word was not widely used until the middle 20th century.

Brouhaha’s exact origins in French are unknown. Some sources suggest it may come from the Hebrew barúkh habá, meaning blessed be the one who comes,2 though no one has explained how the modern English word could have developed from this.


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Examples

Remember the brouhaha about $563 million in Obama administration loan guarantees to Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that went belly up last fall? [New York Times]

Without the brouhaha from the Liberal Democrats, the Bill would have been passed, unamended, a year ago. [Independent]

But, as the clocked edged closer to 3 a.m., the jovial brouhaha turned nasty. [National Post]

Sydney’s Centennial Park is destined to become the centre of the latest brouhaha between recreational cyclists and local authorities. [Sydney Morning Herald]

It’s almost as cringe-inducing as the awkward moment when Steven Tyler made fun of Jennifer Lopez’s much-ado-about-nothing Oscars “nipple slip” brouhaha. [Los Angeles Times]

References

1. “Brouhaha” in the OED (subscription required)
2. Chambers Dictionary of Etymology

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