Did the Term ‘What in the Sam Hill’ Originate in Washington State?
Did The Term What In The Sam Hill Originate In Washington State?
We've all heard the phrase "What in the Sam Hill is going on?" But did you know that this phrase may have originated in our very own state of Washington?
Sam Hill Was A Washington Millionaire Who Advocated For Paved Roads
Let's take a look at the evidence:
One of the earliest known uses of the phrase “What in the Sam Hill” was in 1895, in the novel Mr. Bonaparte of Corsica by John Kendrick Bangs. In the book, a character says “What in the Sam Hill are you talking about?”
However, it is unclear if Bangs coined the phrase or if he was just popularizing an already-existing expression.
There are several theories about where the phrase comes from. One theory suggests that it is a corruption of the biblical phrase “Whatsoever things are honest…”
Other theories suggest that it is a reference to a famous surveyor in Michigan, Samuel W. Hill, or that it is simply a made-up nonsense phrase.
There is no definitive answer about where the phrase “What in the Sam Hill” came from, but there are plenty of theories.
Non-contender: Millionaire in the Pacific Northwest: The millionaire Samuel Hill, a businessman and "good roads" advocate in the Pacific Northwest, became associated with the phrase in the 1920s. A reference appeared in Time magazine when Hill convinced Queen Marie of Romania to travel to rural Washington to dedicate Hill's Maryhill Museum of Art. The fact that "Father of Good Roads" Samuel Hill hadn't been born when the figure of speech first appeared in publication rules out the possibility that he was the original Sam Hill in question