[Ads-l] Antedating "hophead"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 4 18:15:08 EST 2017


The small buffalo horn box used to store opium was called a "hop toy", which was known in the US by at least 1881.


A doctor who specialized in substance abuse, H. H. Kane, wrote a flurry or articles that appeared in several medical journals and Harper's Weekly in 1881.  Six years earlier he had written a book on substance abuse in which he suggested the opium abuse was virtually unknown in the US.  By 1881 he said there were at least 5000 abusers.


He started researching opium in mid-1881 when he met two patients who were hospitalized for their addiction.  He believed, among other things, that it was therapeutically effective in relieving asthma.


In his articles he goes into minute detail about how and where opium is smoked, the layout and environment in the opium "joints", and the various paraphernalia used in smoking opium.  For several of those items he gives the Chinese names, which were apparently used among the opium users:


"scissors (cow ten), a long steel needle (yen hauk), a saucer and sponge, a box for the ashes, two bowl-cleaners, and a buffalo-horn box (hop toy) for holding the opium."


New York Medical Abstract, Volume 1, Number 12, December 1881, page 442.


The expression appears in numerous books, magazines and newspapers for the next few decades.


He never suggests that opium itself was called "hop".  It might be interesting to get a Chinese speaker to weigh in on whether "hop toy" would have had any particular meaning - buffalo horn, opium box, buffalo horn box? - or the like.


Collectors apparently collect these boxes.  You can find images of the boxes by googling "buffalo and horn and box and opium", but the name "hop toy" does not pop up with the images.




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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Thursday, February 2, 2017 4:15 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Antedating "hophead"

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Antedating "hophead"
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In 2012, John Baker posted (Sat Jun 16 21:08:02 UTC 2012) a slight antedati=
ng of "hophead" in a Rube Goldberg "Foolish Questions" cartoon from 1909 (M=
-W had it from 1911).


"Hophead" dates to at least 1895.  For nearly a decade, it appears in print=
 almost exclusively in San Francisco or in article about San Francisco's op=
ium dens and fiends.


The earliest example I found is in the San Francisco Call, August 4, 1895, =
page 24.  It is a full page expose about "How Whites Smoke Opium in Chinato=
wn", complete with several illustrations, including one of a couple of "hop=
 heads" lounging in "Ah Sing's Hop Joint".


Is "Hop" a Chinese word? - or a Chinese accent-influenced corruption of the=
 first syllable of opium? - mispronunciation of "dope"?

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