Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by Archived Topic » Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:07 am

This term meaning state funding, is commonly used in Canada but I am sure it has its origins in the U.K. The "google" hit is high but there doesn't seem to be a relevent origin. Pogy referred to a drunkard in the early 18 hundreds...could this be?
Submitted by Gregg MacDonald (Halifax - Canada)
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Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:21 am

Gregg, I’m unfamiliar with the expression, but here is what I was able to dig up:


1) adjective – Slang. a) a package of food, candy, or other treats sent to a child at boarding school, a person in an institution, etc. b) candy or a treat.

2) noun – Canadian Slang a) [1891] an institution maintained by private charities or government funds for the housing of the aged, sick, orphaned, or feeble-minded; an old-age home, charity hospital, orphanage, or the like. b) any form of charity or government relief. c) [1960] relief given to the needy from national or local funds; unemployment insurance provided by the government;

3) adjective – Canadian slang. Of, pertaining to, or obtained through charity or government relief: ‘pogey shoes.’
<1891 “Begging is called ‘battering for chewing’; railway brakemen, ‘brakies’; poorhouses, ‘POGIES’.”—‘Contemporary Review,’ August, ii. page 255>

<1927 “A ‘POGEY’ is a poorhouse. Government homes for disabled veterans are also known as ‘POGIES.’”—‘American Speech,’ June, page 387/2>

<1959 “Lean and hungry alley-cat men swung down from the freights and headed for a fifteen-cent mission meal or the innumerable POGIES and scratch houses for a ten-cent cot.”—“Maclean’s Magazine” (Toronto), 15 August, page 21/1>

<1960 “Today unemployment-insurance payments are often referred to as POGEY. But POGEY in the depths of the thirties meant something as different from present-day unemployment insurance as panhandling is from drawing money from your bank account.”—“Maclean’s Magazine” (Toronto), 2 April, page 54/2> [[first appearance as ‘unemployment benefits’]]

<1961 “Said a jobless Hamilton steelworker, father of six children: ‘Why should I sweat for $40 a week? I'm getting more than that from the POGEY, the welfare and the baby bonus.’”—‘Time,’ 31 March, page 9/2>

<1964 “During the winter we lived on turnips, potatoes, canned clams and the pogy, and Mother and I would hook rugs for the tourist trade.”—‘Ice Road’ by H. T. Barker, page 49>

<1976 “The Kingston area's fourth largest and fastest growing industry is unemployment insurance—POGEY or, if you wish, the dole.”—‘Whig-Standard’ (Kingston, Ontario), 6 January, page 1/6>
(Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary)

Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words

[Q] “Can you tell us the derivation of the word ‘pogey’ which was used in parts of Canada during the Great Depression to mean government relief—similar to ‘the dole’ and also disparaging. I grew up in western Canada and never heard ‘pogey’ used but it is often referred to in Ontario.”

[A] It seems to have come from a general North American term for a workhouse, homeless hostel or poorhouse, which is recorded from near the end of the nineteenth century. However, that is merely to move the problem back half a century, since the origin of ‘pogey’ in that sense is also unknown.

As ‘pogey’ was also used for a prison or prison cell, we might guess that it’s a variant of the American slang term ‘pokey,’ but ‘pogey’ is recorded rather earlier and it’s actually been suggested as the source for ‘pokey.’

(There’s also the US military term ‘pogey bait’ for candy, ice cream or sweets in general, but the origin of this is obscure. It may be a relative of ‘jail bait,’ with the idea of using the candy as an inducement.)

There is a much older word, ‘pogue,’ for a bag or other container, which is closely related to ‘poke’ in the same sense (which most commonly turns up now in phrases like ‘buying a pig in a poke’), and of course also to ‘poky,’ for a confined space, which would fit the accommodation in prison or the workhouse fairly well. As ‘g’ and ‘k’ interchange pretty freely, it is very possible that ‘pogey’ actually comes from ‘poky,’ which suggests that ‘pokey’ did ultimately come from that source, but via the intermediate of ‘pogey.’

Language is a messy thing . . .

Ken G – December 28, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:34 am

pogey or pogie or pogy....=POGUE....Youthful homosexual male... =PUNK--H-C Dict of Am. SLang
Reply from dale hileman (Apple Valley, CA - U.S.A.)
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Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 19, 2004 2:47 am

Thanks, Ken your research is excellent and informative.

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Re: pogey

Post by astharte » Tue Sep 20, 2016 10:29 am

The word has obviously evolved because in my first 20 years spent in my native country, Canada, the word "Pokey" meant unemployment insurance because it usually took a LONG TIME to get to someone's bank account. Poky or pokey means slow. It comes from the word "'poke" which is what horse does when he's ambling along, without being "reined in" and made to "work". A dressage horse or a horse in a jumping ring or even in cross country, will have a rounded neck, be made to use his hind quarters and back to make the movements and take the steps the rider needs him/her to take for whatever the performance is.
A horse used to amble along on trail rides or to herd cattle for long distances, will poke his head forward, and have a long, relaxed neck.
I suppose in the days where horses were used for transport everywhere a horse poking his nose out was a sign of a slow horse so not to be taken if you needed to get somewhere fast.
There was a great cartoon show in the 1970s called "Gumby and Pokey" in the days of only black and white television. The horse in that show was Pokey.
I have no idea how "Pokey" got to be "Pogey".

Re: pogey

Post by BonnieL » Tue Sep 20, 2016 5:46 pm

astharte wrote:There was a great cartoon show in the 1970s called "Gumby and Pokey" in the days of only black and white television. The horse in that show was Pokey.
The Gumby Show started in 1955. I doubt if I was watching then, but I certainly was by '59 or '60. There was a lot of good stop-action animation then. I still remember Davey and Goliath, created by the same man who did Gumby.

Re: pogey

Post by trolley » Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:32 pm

I remember Davey and Goliath, well. We only got two tv channels, one was the CBC and the other was KVOS (from Bellingham, WA). There was no kids programming on Sundays so the whole "Christian message" seemed a fair trade off, just to watch a cartoon. I never made the connection that it was the same folks who did the Gumby clay-mation.

Re: pogey

Post by Wizard of Oz » Wed Sep 21, 2016 5:24 pm

Here is one of those tangential posts that is sort of on topic but ...

In Cliffy's Emporium cafe in Daylesford in country Victoria they serve poggie for breakfast. Poggie it turns out is porridge. The menu explains that it is an old country word for porridge but no more. I had thought it might be Scottish but have drawn a blank. So there you have it. One example with nothing more to back it up.

WoZ who loves his poggie.
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

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