"hawk" v.3

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Fri Dec 2 17:55:13 UTC 2011

I can't remember how the subject came up, but a colleague and I, while drinking coffee this morning, had a small argument about the verb "hawk" in the sense of 'clear the throat of phlegm'.  He, speaking a dialect that lacks the "open o," insisted that the word is spelled "hock."  Of course, I won the argument.  But I am thinking that the OED needs to enter "hock" as a variant spelling.

Searching the currently-common phrase "hawk a loogie," I discover 256,000 raw Google hits with the "hock" spelling, only 110,000 with "hawk."  I informally questioned a class with comparable results; a majority favored the spelling "hock," with an unexpected handful proposing "hack" ("hack a loogie" garners 11,000 GH's), perhaps folk-etymologically influenced by the coughing sense of "hack," which the OED regards as a special use of "hack" in the general sense of 'chop' (v.1.14).  Of course, a hacking cough is dry, unlike the raising of a loogie.


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