hooky

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

hooky

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:03 am

When and where does this word originate?
Submitted by Maura Porricolo (NYC - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Topic imported and archived

hooky

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:17 am

Maura, To PLAY HOOKY/HOOKEY, originally slang but now standard English, is to be absent from school, to be truant, without an excuse and was first recorded in 1848. It is now often used jocularly in reference to taking off from work or other responsibilities without a legitimate reason. This expression was a favorite of Mark Twain (1835-1910) and his writings helped to popularize its use.

There is no widely accepted explanation for the word ‘hookey,’ or ‘hooky. This chiefly American expression arose in the late 19th century, when compulsory attendance laws became the rule in public schools and truant officers were on the loose. One of several theories is that ‘hooky’ may be a compression of the older expression ‘hook it,’ to escape, run away, or make off, formed by dropping the ‘t’ in the phrase. Or it could be related to the old euphemistic slang verb ‘hook,’ meaning ‘to steal’ (“he ‘hooked’ an orange from the fruit stand”) – kids stealing a day off from school, although Random House could not find any reference to this usage earlier than 1848.

‘Hooky’ has so often been associated with going fishing that it may even owe its life to ‘getting off the hook’ the way a fish can. Anyway, it is probably often as painful to schoolchildren as being on a hook, and ‘schools of kids’ squirming in their seats may give that appearance.

Others strongly believe that ‘hooky’ derived from the Dutch term ‘hoekje’ (‘spelen’) 'hide-and-seek'. The Dutch word ‘hoek’ means 'corner' – the boys in 17th-century New Amsterdam played this game around the corners of the street. Hide-and-seek was a different game back then – the players had to search for a hidden object. Although ‘play hooky’ may once have referred to the game of hide-and-seek, it wasn't until the 19th century that schoolchildren began using ‘play hooky’ to mean 'skip school.'
<1848 “HOOKEY: To ‘PLAY HOOKEY’ is to play truant. A term used among schoolboys, chiefly in the state of New York.”—‘Dictionary of Americanisms’ by Bartlett>

<1863 “Why wasn’t you at school yesterday? I’m afraid you played HOOKY.”—‘Wrong Man’ by H. J. Thomas, page 33>

<1867 “He would not play hookey, even when his sober judgment told him it was the most profitable thing he could do.”—‘American Drolleries’ by Mark Twain, page 20>

<1885 “Whenever I got uncommon tired I PLAYED HOOKEY, and the hiding I got next day done me good and cheered me up.”—‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain>

<1923 “He's PLAYED HOOKEY from the choir so often that the vicar told him . . . he would fire him out.”—‘The Inimitable Jeeves’ by Wodehouse, xiv. page 172>

<1937 “I PLAYED HOOKEY from the Appropriations Committee this morning.”—‘Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-1959,’ page 397>
(Word Detective by Evan Morris, Random House’s Word Maven by Jesse Sheidlower, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Oxford English Dictionary)
______________________

Ken G – October 26, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

hooky

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:32 am

A hooky is often manufactured out of irony.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

hooky

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Dec 01, 2004 6:46 am

.. in Aus we used to "wop it" and of course we had the "wop cops" who were the truancy police out looking for us .. we also have used "wagging it" and in reference to just truanting for one period kids say "cutting class" (American I think) .. and the current term amongst Aussie kids is "jigging it" ..
WoZ of Aus 31/10/04
Reply from Wizard of Oz (Newcastle - Australia)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Reply imported and archived

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply