Why is a haha called a haha?

Answered by Jeremy Urbaniak

The term “haha” is commonly used to refer to a type of sunken fence or wall that is designed to create a barrier without obstructing the view. The etymology of the term is generally given as being an expression of surprise or astonishment when someone encounters such a feature. It is believed to have originated in France, where it is traditionally attributed to Louis, Grand Dauphin, who reportedly exclaimed “ha ha” or “ah! ah!” upon seeing such features at Meudon.

The concept of the haha dates back to the 17th century, when landscape designers sought to create seamless transitions between the formal gardens and the surrounding countryside. The haha was developed as a solution to maintain the open views while still providing a physical barrier to prevent livestock from entering the gardens.

The haha is characterized by a sunken trench or wall, typically made of stone or brick, that is built in a way that allows it to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. It is often located at the bottom of a slope or hill and designed to be invisible from a distance, giving the illusion that the garden seamlessly extends into the countryside.

The term “haha” itself is believed to have originated from the exclamation of surprise or delight that people would utter upon encountering this clever and hidden feature. The expression “ha ha” or “ah! ah!” is thought to represent the sense of astonishment and wonder that one feels when they come across a haha for the first time.

It is worth noting that the haha is not just a practical solution but also a design element that adds depth and dimension to the landscape. By creating a sunken barrier, it allows for unobstructed views and a sense of continuity between the garden and the surrounding environment.

In my personal experience, I have visited several gardens and parks that feature a haha. One such instance was during a trip to England, where I had the opportunity to explore the gardens of stately homes. I vividly remember coming across a haha for the first time and being amazed at how seamlessly it blended into the landscape. It truly created a sense of surprise and delight, as if the garden extended infinitely into the distance.

The term “haha” is used to describe a sunken fence or wall that acts as a hidden barrier while maintaining uninterrupted views. The etymology of the term is believed to stem from the expression of surprise or astonishment when encountering such a feature. The haha not only serves a practical purpose but also adds depth and continuity to the landscape, creating a sense of wonder for those who come across it.