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Post by waterworks » Fri Mar 03, 2006 11:34 am

My father-in-law used to say "You played hob" when he thought someone was lying to him. Have you ever heard of that one?

FROM Bookclub Ket

I believe that the expression “played hob with” comes from Old English. The hob, a goblin, was spectacularly mischievous.
Signature: Debz's mom


Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Mar 04, 2006 8:38 pm

Barb (aka waterworks, Debz’s mom), You’re right about the goblin connection. If you look up HOB in OneLook.com, you’ll find that it is discussed in 18 dictionaries, and M-W.com talks about PLAY HOB WITH and RAISING HOB. But this is an interesting expression and I’ll embellish on what M-W.com had to say.

Evidently the expression isn’t as popular as it once was, at least in the U.S. since, for example, the last time it appeared in Time Magazine was in 1965 (see quote) after appearing 25 times since 1931. The last journal example I could find was from 1993 (see quote) after 39 appearances since 1949 (at least with the search engine I was using), and the last time it appeared in the pages of the New York Times was in 1998 (see quote) after making 192 appearances since 1852. And RAISE HOB, which has appeared in much lower numbers, seems to be experiencing a similar death.

HOB noun [1460]: now Chiefly British dialect: Robin Goodfellow or Puck, a hobgoblin (something causing superstitious fear, a bogy, a mischievous goblin or sprite, Puck), sprite, or elf; mischief, mischievous behavior, trouble; formerly a generic name for a rustic, a clown. [Middle English ‘hob,’ ‘hobbe,’ from Hobbe, nickname of Robert or Robin].
<c1460 “Whi, who is that HOB ouer the wall? we! who was that that piped so small?”—“Towneley Mystery Plays” (E.E.T.S.), ii. page 297>

<1559 “Merlyn fathered by an HOB.”—‘Mirror Magazine,’ ‘Owen Glendour,’ viii>

<circa “From elves, HOBS, and fairies, That trouble our dairies . . . Defend us, good Heaven!”—‘Monsieur Thomas’ by Fletcher, IV. vi>

<1627 “Yet much they doubted there to stay, Lest Hob should hap to find them.”—‘Nymphidia’ in Works (1753) by Drayton, page 462>

<1891 “If there was a ‘weight of work’ craving to be done . . . HOB would come unasked, unwarned to the rescue.”—‘Forty Years in a Moorland Parish’ by Atkinson, page 65>
PLAY HOB WITH [1838] (originally U.S.): 1) To do mischief or harm to; to make as much trouble as one can; cause upset; cause confusion or disruption or havoc; play havoc with. <“The child played hob with my radio, and now it won't work at all.”>, <“The unannounced visit played hob with his schedule.”>. 2) To take liberties and make free with. <“The book played hob with historical fact.”>

RAISE HOB (Chiefly U.S.): 1) To cause a destructive commotion; behave disruptively; play hob with. <“The war raised hob with international trade.”>. 2) To show extreme irritation or wrath. <“They raised such hob with their antagonistic questions that the meeting broke up.”>, <His boss raised hob with him for being late.”> 3) To be riotous (as with intoxication or glee) and cause a rumpus. <“The were going to go out tonight and raise hob.”>

Note: For anyone who is wondering, the HOB in hobnob is unrelated, other than being a homonym, of the HOB under discussion here.
<1838 “They say it's PLAYING HOB WITH the fellers in these here parts.”—‘New York Mirror,’ 2 June, page 387/1>

<1853 “I need not say that the cold metal PLAYED HOB WITH the tinkers.”—“The U.S. Grinnell (first) Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin” (1856) by Kane, xxvi., page 213>

<1905 “I believe that idiot's right, he won't lose votes by PLAYING HOB us”—‘In Arena’ by B. Tarkington, page 23>

<1911 “Theoph's been RAISING HOB because the Odd Fellows built on to their building.”—“Cap’n Warrne’s Wards’ by J. C. Lincoln, vi. page 88>

<1916 “He looked like one of them silly little critters that PLAY HOB WITH Rip Van Winkle . .. before he goes to sleep.”—‘Somewhere in Red Gap’ by H. L. Wilson, iii. page 120>

<1927 “Carl parked the car and stowed the flask in the door-pocket before speaking, and then he murmured sympathetically, ‘It [sc. liquor] PLAYED HOB WITH you, didn't it, old girl?’”—‘Lord of Himself’ by P. Marks, xvi. page 244>

<1935 “It's the food you eat without enjoyment that PLAYS HOB WITH your stomach.”—‘Young Renny’ by M. De La Roche, xxv. page 219>

<1940 “The revolutionists who are PLAYING HOB WITH our generation are really masters of the obsolete.”—‘Our Lady in the Modern World’ by D. A. Lord, iii. page 141>

<1949 “The change in time on the new quiz programs is RAISING HOB WITH getting the evening chores finished.”—‘Chicago Tribune,’ 14 June. II. page 1/1>

<1965 “This year's conjunction of the planets Uranus and Pluto forming in Virgo in opposition to Saturn in Pisces can PLAY HOB WITH everything from De Gaulle's plan for a French-dominated Europe to Brigitte Bardot's love life.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 15 January

<1967 “The Chinese presumably could RAISE HOB . . . with vlf transmission to submarines from the base at North West Cape.”—‘Electronics,’ 6 March, page 352/2>

<1978 “Even where the Constitution declares their posts independent of political control, realities PLAY HOB WITH the legal fiction of prosecutorial independence.”—‘British Journal of Law and Society,’ Vol. 5, No. 1, Summer page 59>

<1989 “Puns PLAY HOB WITH definitions of the figurative, like that of Ricoeur . . . , which depend too heavily on the two-part rigor of metaphor.”—‘Rhetoric Review,’ Vol. 7, No. 2, Spring, page 376>

<1993 ‘. . .screens out the background radiation from cosmic rays that would otherwise PLAY HOB WITH sensitive experiments.”—‘Science,’ New Series, Vol. 261, No. 5126, September, page 1276>

<1998 “In Egna’s view dams deform nature’s rivers, drown great scenery, destroy ancient Indian relics and PLAY HOB WITH wilderness, wildlife . . and the ecosystem in general.”—‘New York Times,’ 6 September, page BR 5>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Merriam-Webster’s and Random House Unabridged Dictionaries)

Ken G – March 4, 2006

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