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Why do people think the French say 'hon hon hon' when they laugh?

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Why do people think the French say 'hon hon hon' when they laugh?
Photo: 'Til there was you/ Tumblr
14:44 CET+01:00
Whether it's the classic "hon hon hon," the "ron hon hon," version or the longer "hon hon honnnn" form, where on earth did we get the idea that French people laughing involves the sound "hon" at all?

The top definition of Urban Dictionary for "hon hon hon" is "the sound of French laughter, in all its nasally glory."

The "n" isn't actually pronounced, but it signals how the "o" should sound, (so definitely not "ho ho ho" - that catchphrase is taken).

The sound has well and truly permeated pop culture, no stereotypical representation of a French person seems to be complete without it, from New Zealand comedy show Flight of the Conchords to The Simpsons.

In fact a quick search of the web and you realise its everywhere, like this video below.

 
The "hon hon hon" has taken on an internet form in the "hon hon hon baguette" jokes too.
 
Photo: canihascheeseburger
 
But have you ever heard a French person laugh like this in real life? No, nor have we. 
 
So where did we get this impression from? 
 
Internet comment boards are full of people asking the same question, with no "official" explanation. 
 
The most popular theory is that we in the English-speaking world got the idea from Maurice Chevalier, a French singer and entertainer, whose career spanned most of the 20th century. He made it in Hollywood and one of his most famous songs is "Thank heavens for little girls."
 
His strong Parisian accent is pretty much the epitome of the typical French voice that we English speakers love to imitate, "like zees".
 
Marc Milleseptcentcinquantesix/ Daily motion
 
Apparently, the "hon hon hon" was his signature laugh, and that's where we all got the idea from. 
 
Appearing as himself in Disney's "Mickey's Gala Premier" Chevalier does indeed seem to make the sound when he appears at 1:30.
 
Video: CartoonStation
 
But perhaps this was all a bit of a misunderstanding.
 
"Maurice Chevalier might on one occasion have - perhaps while choking on an escargot? - uttered a sound that was unjustly mistaken for a laugh," writes blogger Emily in the Glass
 
"Later, when paired with his accent in English, this sound must have become known as Maurice Chevalier’s French laugh and, as stereotypes go, soon it was simply the French laugh."
 
Either way, the laugh made it's way into Anglophone culture and has stuck there. It can be heard in Disney's 1989 film The Little Mermaid, a quintessential childhood film for many.
 
Chef Louis, a classically grotesque caricature of a Frenchman, even references Chevalier right at the beginning of his song, listen out for the "hon hon hon" at 0:30.
 
Video: 0bronwyn0's channel/ Youtube
 
So let us know, is there another explanation for the "hon hon hon" phenomenon? Or is there a French town or village somewhere where everyone really laughs like this? 
 
By Rose Trigg

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