"hobo" -- A hobo author in 1911 suggested its etymology

Gerald Cohen gcohen at UMR.EDU
Wed Jan 28 02:40:54 UTC 2004

       Note an important reference:
  _Hobo-Camp-Fire-Tales_, 10th edition (probably = 10th printing),
  1911, by A No. 1 (moniker of hobo author Leon Livingstone).  This
  work presents a very plausible etymology, pp.14-15. Note too my
treatment of "hobo" (in: Comments on Etymology, April 1999, vol. 28,
no. 7, pp. 22-25; reprinted with minor revisions in Comments on
Etymology, December 2002/January 2003  (double issue), pp. 62-65).

    Here now is the relevant passage from hobo "A No. 1"--
  pp.14-15:  'Another peculiarity is the language tramps use in conversation
  among themselves, which differs so widely from the common language
  spoken by the "outsider", that a few casual remarks made by a tramp
  will quickly reveal whether or not the person addressed is an
  interloper or one of the tramping fraternity.
          'This peculiar language is derived principally by abbreviation.  Take
  for instance, the word "Hobo".  I once met, coming out of Cleveland,
  Ohio, several tramps.  The first one who passed said: 'HELLO BOY, how
  is the city for work?" The next one, who had been on the road a
  little longer, greeted me with: "H'O BOY, which way are you bound?"
  The  third tramp had been on the road some time, because his address
  was still more abbreviated.  He said: "HO BO, which way?" The fourth
  had the "HOBO" cut in two, when he said: "Say, BO, how is the town?"
  meaning the police, etc. etc.'

Gerald Cohen

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