hocus, hoax

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Mon Jan 8 13:11:49 UTC 2007

Two antedatings of hoax (full text at google book search):

1781 A select collection of poems: with notes [by J. Nichols]. p.316:

AM I, or am I not imprudent,
In begging you to accept " The Student ?"
Here lies the point--if good, no wonder--
But how you hoax us, if we blunder!
"Dame Oxford musters all her friends...

1791 A cat with four hundred and fifty tails By Master Tom Plumb A.M. p.5:

At once how Oxford poured forth all her whores!....Hoax ! hoax ! was then the
cry, and down the ... Waw ! waw ! hoax ! hoax! did shake the trembling ground,
the empty schools did re-echo'd all around!

OED has hoax v. from 1796; n. from 1808; ADS-L archive (Douglas G. Wilson) has
an 1801 n. use.

At hocus v. OED offers:
[f. HOCUS n.
  Supposed to be the source of the later HOAX v., though the want of instances
for the 18th c. makes this less certain. Apparently revived in 19th c., perh.
under the influence of hoax.]

Google books has several 18th-century uses of hocus (pocus), at least as n. and

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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