Iota > Hooter [was: Fout(re) > Hoot(er)]

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Oct 23 10:01:08 UTC 2000

>As for 'hooter', it officially is [orig.unkn.], but the RHHDAS does
>contain a reference to a Bartlett's of 1859 that takes it to be 'probably
>a corruption of IOTA', which is of course the alternate form of the
>minimizer JOT I brought up earlier.

I checked various references, including the Bartlett book which presents
the conjecture 'hooter' < 'iota'. Didn't find much.

I am unhappy with /aiout@/ > /hut@(r)/. Perhaps we can admit the variant
pronunciation 'iota' /jout@/ and the related 'jot' /dZAt/, but I'm still
unhappy with the initial consonant particularly. Is /j/ > /h/ or /dZ/ > /h/
a natural progression in English? No more natural than /f/ > /h/, I think!
As for /aiou/ > /hu/, well ... anybody familiar with 'hudine' as a variant
of 'iodine', or 'iope' as a variant of 'hoop'?

It would be a lot more plausible phonetically if 'hooter' were derived from
the Spanish 'jota' /hota/. Note that in Spanish 'jota' = '[letter] J' and
also = 'jot'/'iota'. It is used like 'jot'/'iota' is in English: 'sin
faltar una jota', 'no sabio una jota', etc. [Here I ignore any difference
between /h/ and /x/ in Spanish.]

In the U. Chicago "Dictionary of Americanisms" (Mathews) another 'hooter'
appears ('rare', cited from 1845), meaning a (certain) dance. Both words
'hooter' are without stated origin.

Of course there is another Spanish word 'jota', referring to an Aragonese
folk-dance. There are English-language citations for this 'jota' from the
early 19th century (OED Supplement). The two words in Spanish are
apparently unrelated etymologically: 'jota' = 'J' < Latin < Greek 'iota',
but 'jota' = 'Aragonese folk-dance' is apparently Aragonese from old
Spanish 'sota' = 'dance', < 'sotar' = 'dance' [verb], < Latin 'saltare' (an
alternative derivation from Arabic has been proposed also).

Just a coincidence? I can see Spanish 'jota' in either sense, perceived as
'hota'/'hoter' /hout@(r)/ in English, changing to the more natural 'hooter'
(compare [casually] the variation in pronunciation of 'whore', /hou(r)/ vs.
/hUr/, or of 'poor', /pou(r)/ vs. /pUr/ -- or the Middle English 'hoten'
vs. 'huten' > 'hoot'). But why would the word 'hooter' = 'jot' have come
from Spanish? Bartlett says it was common in New York, and all kinds of
things come into New York; but could it have come out of the West or Southwest?

Any thoughts?

  -- Doug Wilson

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