What’s in a Name? — The “Hash” in Hash 207

“Hash 207” is named in the convention of better books like “Catch-22” and “Fahrenheit 451,” but what does the title mean?

Many of the characters in “Hash 207” are members of the Hash House Harriers, an international drinking club with a running problem that has kennels (chapters) in nearly every city on the planet. Their 207th run—hash #207—finds the group confronting the conflicted City Councilman who threatens their home and embodies the worst aspects of gentrification.

207 is also the area code for their entire state—Maine—subtly referencing the story’s general setting.

Our protagonist Jamie discovers the group accidentally after hitchhiking to a new city. He comes to see in their camaraderie the kind of friendships he longs for, having already discovered how hard it is to make friends when you’re out of school and don’t like your job, and especially when you’ve just arrived rather unexpectedly in a whole new city.

He’s amazed that this group, with such a peculiar name, includes people from such vastly different professions and backgrounds: doctors and laborers, lawyers and artists, teachers and the unemployed. They would have a hard time, he thinks, meeting and getting to know each other without this group—one that’s dedicated to beer, running, and acting delightfully foolish on the weekend.

The original Hash House Harriers, convened nearly a century ago on the far side of the planet, derived their name from the living quarters of their founders, a group of United Kingdom military officers stationed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The cook in their officer barracks was lousy, and generally cooked whatever food was on hand all together in a skillet. The British word for this hodgepodge meal is “hash,” so they referred to their barracks as the Hash House.

Want a good meal? Go elsewhere.

The life of an officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces was not one of rough physical labor, yet they needed a way to stay vaguely in shape for their fitness standards…without cutting back on their social hours. Since exercise is a drag, especially in tropical heat, they considered ways to make it fun…like playing the old children’s game “Hare and Hounds,” and ending the chase with a round or four of drinks.

One day in 1938 they sent a volunteer into the jungle with a bag of baking flour and bits of paper to mark a trail. Minutes later, they took off chasing him. The man laying the trail—the hare—could throw them off by laying a mark called a “check,” meaning “check around to see where the trail begins again.” The men chasing him—the hounds—had to pick up the trail again, holler for their fellows, and continue on.

As they rotated out of Kuala Lumpur for other posts, they took the activity with them. They sang drinking songs familiar from the officers’ pubs, from rugby clubs, and from other places where likeminded gentlemen gathered to cut loose.

They came up with secret names for their members to further distance the real world from what happens on trail. Thus, the harriers of the Hash House became the Hash House Harriers, where everyone earns a delightfully crude and frequently demeaning nickname.

Many modern kennels are coed and sequentially number their weekly events. The completely fictitious kennel in “Hash 207” was founded long enough ago that their event numbers climb into the 200s during our story.

Hash #207 happens on the eve of their grand showdown with the powers that threaten their homes and livelihoods. Key conflicts unfold during that hash, including a naming ceremony where Jamie hopes to finally earn full membership in the group.

The title links our story to the Hash House Harriers, to Maine, and specifically, to the 207th running of the fictitious group in our story, an event crucial to the plot.

Titling a book is tricky business. I love the titles (and books) “Catch 22,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “1984.” Those titles were pretty esoteric before cracking their covers, too. While I’m not a writer of Heller’s, Bradbury’s, or Orwell’s caliber, I certainly draw inspiration from their titles.

I’ll change my title when a better one comes along, as at the behest of a publisher, but until then I need a working title and a URL for this site, so…cheers, to “Hash 207!”