hautboy=ho boy=oboe=hobo?

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Jan 27 01:48:56 UTC 2004

>Am I simply rehashing someone else's ideas here?
>_Hautboy_ shows up in the 16th century as a name for what we call today an
>The name as applied to the reeded instrument was spelled in many ways over
>the years, a common one being _ho boy_  .  Not hard to imagine both the
>English and the Americans saying the word this way.
>The whole _clinker_ in the derivation of the word "hobo"(which doesn't
>appear until 1888) is that pesky cite found by the "growling" Barry
>Popik.  He cites from 1848, "A year's bronzing and 'ho-boying' about among
>the mountains of that charming country called Mexico, has given me a
>slight dash of the Spanish".
>What I propose is that the writer of that 1848 cite was making a play on
>the word _ho boy_ which he knew was an oboe and he was slyly saying _hobo_ .

This is a mystery to me.

Note that another version of "oboe"/"hautbois"/"hautboy"/"hoboy" was "hoboe".

In the 1850's "hoboy" (also spelled "hautboy") meant a nightman, i.e., one
who emptied privies ... this is in HDAS. Why was the excrement-shoveler so
named? Did he use a hoe? Did he play an oboe? Was he typically an itinerant
laborer (a "hobo")?

It has been suggested -- in seriousness! -- that the word "hobo" comes from
wandering oboeists. There are also the Spanish and Japanese origin
theories, etc., etc.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list