Query About Etymological Discoveries

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 22 03:26:12 UTC 2009

Well, let's see. What's to keep a person from assuming that "hook" is
a back-formation from "hooker" < Hooker?

Back in the day, when I dabbled at The Game in Los Angeles, the
primary term was "catch," admittedly a term reasonably semantically
close to "hook." But both "hooker" and "hooking" were vanishingly rare
and "catcher" was non-existent.

There was the expression, "catching clothes," whose meaning is
probably self-evident. This leaked into the general, "square" female
population with its meaning essentially intact, since, in those days,
even "common night walkers" - General Laws of  the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts: A common night walker is anyone who is abroad at night,
others to engage in unlawful sexual acts, such as prostitution -
didn't dress like whores. "Pretty woman" was the bag.

Jargon-wise, there was the phrase, "to break luck." It somehow meant,
to succeed in "catching" one's first trick of the evening. Even in The
Game, a woman had to work her way through a lot of frogs before
finding a prince.

On Mon, Sep 21, 2009 at 9:47 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Query About Etymological Discoveries
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 8:30 PM -0400 9/21/09, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
> >Shapiro, Fred wrote:
> >>I am writing an article about etymological discoveries of recent
> >>decades, exploring the question of whether anyone pays any
> >>attention to discoveries that shed factual light on the derivation
> >>of a term or whether the media and the public continue believing in
> >>erroneous derivations despite the discovery.  Some examples of
> >>"etymological discoveries" of recent decades would be _O.K._
> >>deriving from _oll korrect_, _hooker_ not deriving from the name of
> >>a Civil War general, _bug_ 'computer defect' not deriving from the
> >>discovery of a moth inside an early computer, _in like Flynn_ not
> >>deriving from Erroll Flynn's trial, _flack_ not deriving from
> >>_flak_.  Can anyone suggest other examples?
> >>
> >>Note that I am not asking for discoveries that push back the
> >>earliest date of usage of a term (the "when") without affecting
> >>"why" a term is used.
> >--
> >
> >It's a lot easier to disprove a purported etymology than to prove one!
> >
> >E.g., "hooker" isn't from Gen. Hooker's name but AFAIK it's still an
> >open question where it DID come from.
> The null hypothesis deriving "hooker" as an agentive from the verb
> "to hook" has always seemed pretty reasonable to me.  Is there some
> reason to disbelieve it?
> LH
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