etymology of hoppas

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Jan 30 00:46:00 UTC 2004

>Has anyone run across the word hoppas/hoppis/hoppus?

Only just now.

>It's a a sort of backpack and is cited in Mathew's Dict. of Americansms
>from 1803-26.
>It's always in Indian or frontier contexts, so it might have a native
>etymon. It might also be a variant of the English word hopper, a
>receptacle carried on the back, used to carry seed for sowing, et al. A
>nonrhotic variant is credible, but why the final -s? Its persistence is
>a problem: one would expect at least occasionally forms like *hoppa or
>*hoppe for r-less hopper, but they aren't given in dictionaries. Hoppas
>occurs in 1791 in Amer. State Papers vol. IV (Indian Affairs vol. I)
>(1832) p. 151 "You are just now rising from your seats, with your backs
>bent, bearing your loaded hoppas." The Iroquois speaker here (in
>translation) is apparently using the word in the plural, so it seems it
>might be an r-less 'hopper'.

The various spellings and citations in Mathews seem to me to favor a
pronunciation like /hap at s/ (@ = schwa). Even "hoppers" appears in Mathews
before "strap" which would be somewhat consistent with terminal /s/ rather
than /z/. Therefore I naively speculate that the basic word is  like
"hoppus" or "hoppurse", and that the above apparently-plural usage is just
an aberration, maybe introduced in translation.

>In the Lewis and Clark journals (vol. 4, p. 250), Meriwether Lewis
>writes "I had now my sack and blanket happerst in readiness to swing on
>my back". I take this to be a spelling of 'hoppused', meaning 'trussed
>up or slung like a backpack'. (Happer is a Scots dial. var. of hopper.)
>Again, though, if the word is really hopper, why doesn't Lewis write
>'hoppered' or something similar?

Again speculating from ignorance, I agree that this looks like a
participle, like "hoppursed". I doubt the connection to "hopper" based on
the slight evidence immediately available to me.

What would "hoppus"/"hoppurse" be? Possibilities: (1) non-English word
meaning "pack" or so; (2) contraction of "half-purse" (this is apparently a
designation for a type of fishnet); (3) contraction of "hop purse" or "hob
purse" or some other (forgotten) phrase; (4) something else which we
haven't thought of.

-- Doug Wilson

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