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The complicated history of Ole Miss’ ‘Hotty Toddy’ cheer

“Are you ready?”

It begins innocently enough, a simply phrased question that, given the right atmosphere, can raise the hair on your arms and stir something within your soul.

Embedded into my memories are the raucous boom of ‘Hotty Toddy’ through Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Oct. 4, 2014 after the Rebels upended Alabama or the defiant pre-game cheer before the 2012 Egg Bowl. Or pretty much any LSU game since the beginning of forever.

It’s one of the most unique chants across collegiate sports, it’s certainly one of the most recognizable, and it’s as integral to the fabric and culture of Ole Miss as red and blue, the Grove and the Rebels.

If you do an internet search for ‘the history of ‘Hotty Toddy’ you quickly learn that there is no official history behind the creation of the chant.

Like much of the lore surrounding athletic adjacent things at the University of Mississippi – things like mascots, school colors, or even the nickname Ole Miss – the stories vary slightly. What is known is that ‘Hotty Toddy’ became a chant popular among the student body in the mid-1920s. The first known publishing of the chant was by the university’s student newspaper The Mississippian, now known as The Daily Mississippian, on November 19, 1925.

And it wasn’t quite the ‘Hotty Toddy’ cheer Ole Miss fans know today.

Heighty! Tighty!

Gosh a Mighty!

Who the hell are we?

Rim! Ram! Flim! Flam!

Ole Miss, by Damn!”

Another story that’s gained some popularity connects the origins of ‘Hotty Toddy’ to the Virginia Tech Regimental Band, called The High Tighties, who also have a hotly contested debate as to the origin of their name.

Others are convinced that ‘Hotty Toddy’ is simply a play on the phrase hoity-toity, perhaps used to further embrace the high-style tailgating and fashion on display during a typical Saturday in the Grove.

And then, of course, there is the most famous of them all – a hot toddy, the cocktail-slash-cold-remedy made up of whiskey, tea and lemon. Certainly, Ole Miss fans are no strangers to whiskey or gameday drinking, making it just as plausible as all the other stories floating around.

What can unequivocally be determined is that ‘Hotty Toddy’s’ reach extends far deeper than just the Ole Miss faithful. Alabama’s ‘Rammer Jammer’ chant is a sibling, taken by former Pride of the South band director Jim Ferguson and rebranded for Bama fans.

Ferguson was in charge of the Ole Miss band from 1966 to 1971 and then left to take over the Million Dollar Band at the University of Alabama.

“He adapted the ‘Hotty Toddy’ cheer to suit Alabama; thus, the ‘Rammer Jammer’ cheer,” current Pride of the South band director Bill DeJournett told Gridiron Now in Sept. 2016.

According to Gridiron Now, the Alabama cheerleaders helped Ferguson rework the cheer, taking ‘Rammer Jammer’ from one of the university newspapers and adding Alabama’s state bird, the yellowhammer.

“‘Give ‘em hell, Alabama,” which finishes off the cheer, was a call routine for Bama fans during the Bear Bryant era, Gridiron Now said.

While the connection between ‘Hotty Toddy’ and ‘Rammer Jammer’ is a cool bit of college sports trivia, the reach and influence of the Ole Miss cheer runs far deeper, at least for me.

I moved to New York City for an internship a couple of weeks after I finished classes at Ole Miss. In a city of 8.5 million people, very few of whom I knew, it’s easy to feel lonely but on a sunny July afternoon on the 600 block of Fifth Avenue, a complete stranger yelled ‘Hotty Toddy’ across the street when he spotted my Ole Miss shirt. I grinned like a loon and yelled it back at him and, for an instant, I didn’t feel quite so alone.

And that’s what ‘Hotty Toddy’ truly is. It’s a rallying cry, an identifier as to who you are and who you support, it crosses boundaries in ways that only sports and the unconditional love of a team or a college can. It means family, it means friends, it means Saturday’s in the Grove spent celebrating a win or in commiseration over another defeat.

In Oct. 2010, ESPN writer Doug Ward said it best, “’Hotty Toddy’ is the spirit of Ole Miss.” And it is a spirit that is constantly challenged, often ridiculed, sometimes mocked, but never easily broken.

So Hotty Toddy, y’all. Let’s give those Tigers hell.