Query About Etymological Discoveries

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Tue Sep 22 03:49:14 UTC 2009

I posted this here a number of years ago.

Pris. -- . . . he called me a hooker. . . .
Mag. -- What did you call her a hooker for?
Wit. -- 'Cause she allers hangs round the hook, your honner.
New York Transcript, September 25, 1835, p. 2, col. 4

  It certainly disproves the Gen. Hooker story, since he was but a lad in 1835.  It seems to prove the "hooker from Corlaer's Hook" story, except that the witness (a cop) might have been a folk-etymologist in his spare time.  There are certainly instances from the mid-19th century of whores as predators and the men, poor things, as their victims, supporting the hooker = fisherman story.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Date: Monday, September 21, 2009 9:48 pm
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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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