hoot(er) (was: foutre)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Aug 30 15:37:51 UTC 2000

At 11:29 AM 8/30/00 +0800, you wrote:
>At 10:27 PM -0400 8/29/00, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>>Question: What is the real origin of 'hoot' in the expression "I
>>don't give a hoot"?  (^_^)
>Not sure; this is one of an indefinitely large catalogue of
>expressions of minimal quantity used (in English and many other
>languages) in negative polarity contexts as what Bolinger called
>'stereotyped equivalents of ANY'.  The OED isn't sure, either,
>suggesting a possible link with either the owl's interjectional hoot
>or the noun denoting 'a short outcry', attested since 1600, but it
>also signals a connection with "hooter", attested earlier in the same
>range of negative contexts, including the following.  (Note that the
>1839 citation includes two polarity items in the same expression.)
>1839 Havana (N.Y.) Republican 21 Aug. (Th.), Now the Grampus [sc. a
>vessel] stopt, and didn't buge [= budge] one hooter.
>1889 Commercial (Cincinnati) 17 Oct., It has not harmed the
>Republican cause in Ohio a hooter.
>1896 Harper's Mag. XCII. 784/1 Now I can have all I want, I don't
>care a hooter!
>1900 E. A. Dix Deacon Bradbury xii, `Do you mean that you don't know
>anything about the matter at all?'..`Not a hooter.'
>as for "hoot" itself, the first cite in the OED for the relevant item
>(hoot-2) is the only one that does not include a negative context,
>for what it's worth:
>1878 J. H. Beadle Western Wilds xxxviii. 615, I got onto my reaper
>and banged down every hoot of it before Monday night.

Then is there any reason to doubt that 'hoot[er]' is an alteration of 'foutre'?

Cf. "I don't give a f*ck.", "I don't know f*ck all about it.", etc.

But is this speculative connection presented in the conventional
references? I haven't seen it myself AFAIK.

-- Doug Wilson

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