etymology of hoppas

Alan Hartley ahartley at D.UMN.EDU
Fri Jan 30 04:12:55 UTC 2004

> 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.

Thanks for expanding the possibilities, Doug. A drawback with these
suggestions (as with the hopper idea) is that the word springs,
apparently rootless, from American soil--a full-text search of the OED
and some Web-crawling yield no likely candidates for English etyma.
That, and the word's provenance, lead me to think the source might be
Native American, probably Iroquoian or Algonquian. I'm asking around and
will report to the list with any solid leads. In the meantime, a 1911
photo (Hdbk. N. Amer. Indians 15.139) keeps coming to mind: it shows two
Penobscots on snowshoes, the father carrying on his back a basswood-bark
bag and the son a splint pack-basket, both slung from a single strap
(tump-line or hoppus-strap) crossing the upper chest.
Having just advocated for an Indian etymology, I've realized that
Hoppes/Hoppas/Hoppis/Hoppus is an American surname, Hoppes being
especially common in Pennsylvania since 1751 when the brothers Happes
arrived from Germany. The backpack hoppas occurs in most of those
variants and the word has its origins in the northeastern US: perhaps it
was invented or popularized by someone in the Happes family.


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