in cahoots

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in cahoots

Post by Archived Topic » Wed Dec 15, 2004 3:01 pm

I'd like to know the origin of this phrase "in cahoots" or "in choots with". How did it come to mean being in league with someone or a partner? Where does the phrase come from and how old is it?
Submitted by Joanne Walen (Mesa - U.S.A.)
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in cahoots

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Dec 15, 2004 3:14 pm

This is from the ABC word of the day.
This is an expression that we used to hear often in the old B-grade westerns and serials at the Saturday afternoon matinees all those year ago. Gabby Hayes would tell Hoppy that the sheriff was really “in cahoots” with the villain they were tracking. Clearly “in cahoots with” means “in league with”. An American lexicographer records that “in cahoots” is an expression used in the South and West of the United States “to denote a company or partnership”. There are two possible sources. One is an old French word cahute meaning “a small cabin” or “a poor hut”. This word is recorded from 1505. (Bearing in mind that the French once owned Louisiana and large part of the American South, it could come from a French source.) The other suggestion is another old French word cohorte meaning “a company” (this, in turn, comes from the Latin cohort meaning originally “a troop of infantry”). So, if you’re “in cahoots” with someone then either you’ve shacked up with them or you’ve signed up with them. Mind you Jonathan Green (in his Dictionary of Slang) suggests a third possible source. It may, he says, come from an American slang word cahot meaning a pothole. If this is the case, then being “in cahoots” with someone means being stuck in a pothole with them.
Reply from Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)
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in cahoots

Post by Archived Reply » Wed Dec 15, 2004 3:27 pm

Joanne and Gary, Also use the search box and you will find some results in Ask the Wordwizard. There are just a few points I would add. Some other forms using ‘cahoots’ are ‘go in cahoot(s)’ and ‘in cahoot.’ Not all connotations of ‘cahoot/cahoots’ past and present are negative. For example, ‘go cahoots’ has meant and can still means, share equally and become partners, with nothing shady. <They went cahoots in the establishment of the store>. And, in fact, the original expression may well have derived from the kind of partnership that was expected of early American pioneers who shared a frontier cabin, or engaged in a joint venture. Also, in addition to the abovementioned possible French words for hut/cabin, the Dutch ‘kajit’ and German ‘Kajüte have also been suggested as possibilities.
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Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms defined CAHOOT as follows: “It is used in the South and West to denote a company or union of men for predatory excursion, and sometimes for partnership in business.”

Unfortunately Bartlett failed to give dates for his quotes, although, he provided sources. So all we know for the following is that they are pre-1848:
<“Pete Hopkins ain’t no better than he should be, and I wouldn’t swar he wasn’t in CAHOOT with the devil.”—‘Chronicles of Pineville,’ page 74>

<”I’d have no obligation to go in CAHOOT with a decent fellow for a character, but have no funds to purchase on my own account.”—‘New Orleans Picayune,’ page 136>

<“The hoosier took him aside, told him there was a smart chance of a pile on one of the (card) tables, and that if he liked, he would go in with him—in CAHOOT!”—‘Field, Western Tales,’ page 198>
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[Note: Additions to this posting, in blue, were made on December 6, 2009]

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

CAHOOT (originally U.S.): ‘Used in the South and West to denote a company, or partnership’ (Bartlett). Frequently in plural, especially in phrase in cahoot(s) (with): in league or partnership (with).
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The earliest dated quote I found was from 1818:
<1818 “There was still a little mystery: how came he and Arens Ringgold in ‘cahoot?’”—Osceola the Seminole: or The red fawn of the Flower Land by M, Reid, page 193>

<1825 “. . . and for a short time will consider you in cahoot, and in that capacity I will hold myself responsible to you for all I say.”—Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jr., of Massachusetts by Josiah Quincy, page 239>


<1829 “Hese in COHOOT with me.”—‘English Grammar’ by S. Kirkam, page 207> [[noun]] [[OED’s earliest]]

<1843 “He . . . would ‘go in with him—in cahoot!”—The Drama in Pokerville by J. M. Field, page198>

<1845 “I’d make a CAHOOT buisness with old man Doublejoy.”—‘Simon Suggs’ by Hooper, page 37> [[adjective]]

<1857 “They all agree to CAHOOT with their claims against Nicaragua and Costa Rica.”—‘N.Y. Herald, 20 May> [[verb, to go into cahoots]]

<1862 “Mc wished me to go in cahoots in a store.”—MS. Diary by G. K. Wilder, 14 May, in Dictionary of American English by Craigie & Hulburt, I. page 184> [[earliest plural usage]]

<1889 “Are you willing to work in cahoots with yours truly?”—The Golden Days of ’49: A tale of the California diggings by K. Munroe, page 26>

<1892 “Let's go into cahoots and go a coon hunting.”—Congressional Record, 16 March, page 2133/1>

<1899 “I have good reasons for thinking they were in cahoots.”—Doc’ Horne by G. Ade, xxv. page 280>
(Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary, and archived sources)
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Ken G – December 11, 2004
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cahoot & cahoots

Post by incarnatus est » Sun Dec 06, 2009 2:50 pm

Curious about the origin of "in cahoots" and too lazy to go back on the Internet late last night, I looked it up in the OED and a Webster's collegiate.

Both offer "cahoot"

This morning, on the Internet, I found only "cahoots."

Was it ever "cahoot" as the venerable OED offers?

I'm wondering if "cahoot" (which I've never heard used) came before "cahoots" and, if so, when and how?

Thank you,

Hugh Gilmore
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Re: cahoot & cahoots

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:33 pm

It seems to have been in the 19th century at least (link). For example, "I'd have no objection to go in cahoot with a decent fellow for a character, but have no funds to purchase on my own account" (link). I wonder if Ken can scare up the OED citations to show when it morphed into the pluralized version.
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Re: cahoot & cahoots

Post by incarnatus est » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:53 pm

Thank you, zmjezhd...How does one get to that Google link you used?

HG
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Re: cahoot & cahoots

Post by zmjezhd » Sun Dec 06, 2009 8:04 pm

You're welcome. If you mean by your question what steps did I follow to get to the first of my links, here they are:

1. Went to the URL http://books.google.com/
2. typed cahoot in the search textfield.
3. Hit return.
4. In the lefthand column choose the link "Full view only" to filter out the newer books that are snippet view or no preview.

Looking at the two etymologies on the first set of results, I would tend to go with an origin in cohort rather than French capute.
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:57 pm

Hugh and Jim, I've combined your new postings with the original from 2004. And with the improved firepower of 2009, I took a second look for 19th century examples and came up with a handful, including two that predated my previous one from 1829 (see my above posting of December 11, 2004).

Couldn't find anything on why the expression went from singular to plural, but for the earliest example of it doing so, I could do no better than the 1862 quote provided by both the Oxford English Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of American Slang.

In my above posting, new information has been added in blue.
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Ken – December 6, 2009
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:14 am

That's a very pleasing colour, Ken, but I would call that violet. This is what I would call blue.
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Ken Greenwald » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:46 am

Erik, That's strange. On my screen, what you call 'violet' and 'blue' in your posting are indistinguishable from what I called 'blue' in my posting. But I suspect that if there is a problem it might be in my monitor or my eyeballs because now that I look at my choice of font colors in the forum code I can distinguish almost no gradation in color, for example, in the upper right corner of each of the first three 5x5 color blocks. It is not until I get to the upper right corner of the fourth block that I see a color that I would call 'violet' and not a shade of 'blue.'

As a test here is what I see looking at the upper right corner of each 5x5 block of color on the right side of the forum code page:

1st block: blue

2nd block: blue (looks about the same as above but I had assumed it was probably a tad lighter and I've been using this as the 'blue' for my links for quite some time)

3rd block: blue (very little difference, if any from above and still 'blue')

4th block: violet (first one that I would say was definitely not blue)

5th block: pink (or some shade thereof)

Can folks actually distinguish between the first three blues and actually see a shift to violet in that threesome, which I can't?

I'm going to take a look at this on another monitor tomorrow and see if I see any difference. This could be the signal that my monitor is ready for the scrap heap, which my son has been telling me for quite some time now. But I tend to not change things unless I see a problem that hinders my ability to do what I do, and not being able to distinguish between colors may be qualify as such a problem.
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Ken – December 6, 2009
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:53 am

To my eyes, your test blocks show a distinct progression from blue to pink.

I would definitely compare your monitor's display with the displays of a couple of other monitors. If you notice a difference from yours, you may be able to correct your monitor's colour balance by adjusting the display settings and so eliminating any reason to replace your monitor before its time. :-)
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Bobinwales » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:54 am

It's not your monitor that is ready for the scrapheap, Ken, it's you and me both!
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Dec 07, 2009 10:59 am

Bob: I'll raise you an obsolescence and see your decrepitude! ;-)
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Re: in cahoots

Post by Shelley » Mon Dec 07, 2009 4:04 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:. . . I would call that violet. This is what I would call blue.
But, Erik -- violets ARE blue!
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Re: in cahoots

Post by russcable » Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:18 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote:Can folks actually distinguish between the first three blues and actually see a shift to violet in that threesome, which I can't?
The second is purplish blue or blueish purple so there might be argument whether it was a blue or a purple, but the third one definitely looks like a purple to me at 8000FF.
Compare to the HTML color name "purple" at 800080 and HTML color name "magenta" at FF00FF.
HTML color="purple"
"BLUE" number 3
HTML color="magenta"
The proportionately closest (about 1 Red to 0 Green to 2 Blue) HTML color name is "indigo" at #4B0082
HTML color="indigo"
"BLUE" number 3 = bright indigo?
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