Hark Upon The Gale

Neotwampism: “Hark Upon The Gale” is a phrase that’s used as a joke at William and Mary. William and Mary student’s know this phrase from the alma mater song and use it ironically because no one knows what it means.

“Hark Upon The Gale” means to listen upon the wind so by itself it actually has no real meaning.



Hark: Early Middle English herkien < Old English type *heorcian corresponding to Old Frisian herkiaharkia (West Frisian herckjenharckjen, North Frisianharke); in ablaut relation with Middle Dutch horkenhorcken (Kilian) modern Flemish dialect heurkenhorken, Middle High German and modern German horchen; from an ablaut series herk-hark-hork-. Old High German hôrechen, Middle High German hôrchen, perhaps owe their long ô to the influence of hôren to hear. The change of Old English eo, Middle English e, to a is regular: compare Old English beorc bark, deorc dark: the Scots form is still herk as in derkberk, etc.

Upon: Old English uppe , = Old Frisian uppa (oppa , opa ), Old Saxon uppa , Middle Dutch oppe (uppe ), Old Norse uppe , uppi (Icelandic uppi , Norwegian and Swedish uppe , Danish oppe ), < upp

The Gale: Old English gagelgagol strong ? masculine (also gagelle-olle weak feminine) = Middle Dutch gaghel, Dutch and modern German gagel, and perhaps Old Norse *gagl in gaglviðr, which may denote this plant ( < *gagl gale + við-r wood), though this is very doubtful. The phonology of the modern form is somewhat obscure.

As a neotwampism “Hark Upon the Gale” takes its name from the words of the College’s alma mater, written by Douglas Southall Freeman, class of 1902: “William and Mary – loved of old – Hark upon the gale, hear the thunder of our chorus: Alma Mater – Hail!”

It was first used as a title in 1957 of a play about the history of the school that was presented as part of the 350th anniversary celebration of the settlement of Jamestown VA in 1607.

Sociolectical Information: The phrase itself doesn’t mean anything in particular, however, the phrase in history was supposed to symbolize listen to our history. The phrase is meant specifically for William and Mary since we have such a long history and a large amount of alumni including TJ.

Survival Predictions: I think this phrase will survive because it’s in the alma mater, which has been around since 1902 and most likely won’t be changed due to W&M’s strong sense of tradition. The word itself might grow to have a meaning because William and Mary student’s like to use it as a joke and might grow to symbolize a specific “Twamp” activity.

Lexiopinions: I myself have never heard an exact definition of this phrase; I’ve just heard people use it as a joke. Some of my friends would joke around saying; “I’m going to go hark upon the gale now” when they are heading to the Sunken Garden or to a Class, but there has been no set definition of what it means.



  1. This is a great word choice since a lot of students use it, but the meaning is uncertain. After reading your post I realized that I don’t even have a clear idea of what “hark upon the gale” means even though I hear it often. Your video did a good job showing that although William and Mary students have heard of the phrase and have a sense of what it means, they still struggle to explain its exact definition. You also had a very in depth section about the etymology of each of the words in the phrase. However, since the alma mater (and this phrase) have been around for a while, maybe you could add more about how this is a neologism. Elaborate on the new way in which students are using this phrase. It would be interesting to see how the usage has changed over time. I would also add a section about who specifically says “hark upon the gale.” Do professors or alumni use this term or is it strictly used by students? I hope this helps!

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