This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
A hoedown is defined as a noisy riotous dance and is seen as synonymous with a 'breakdown'. Judging from the citations on offer in the OED, there seems to be some link to the physical action of hoeing, e.g. Washington Irving in 1807: 'As to dancing, no Long-Island negro could shuffle you ‘double trouble’, or ‘hoe corn and dig potatoes’ more scientifically' and the N.O. Picayune in 1841: 'He looks and walks the character to the life, and some of his touches are of the genuine ‘hoe down’, ‘corn-field’ order.' But more than that I can't offer, and surprisingly, the term is not included in the usually magisterial Dict. American Regional English.ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Jonathon Green