Antedating of "by (the) hokey"

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM
Fri Apr 25 09:59:22 UTC 2014

The OED has the first citation, under hokey | hoaky, n., from 1825:

In by hokey, by the hokey, a petty oath, or asseveration. Also, by the hokey
[Hoakie, in Ayrshire, according to Jamieson, means ‘a fire that has been
covered up with cinders, when all the fuel has become red’. This is hardly
likely to be the source of the petty oath, which seems to be substituted for
some other word.]

1825   J. Jamieson Etymol. Dict. Sc. Lang. Suppl. (at cited word),   Used
also as a petty oath, By the hoakie.

Green's Dictionary of Slang also gives a first cite from 1825, from S.
Wordsworth, Forest Rose.

The term occurs earlier, in Dublin Cant poems dating from the 1780s.

The earliest of this set of poems was 'De Nite Before Larry Was Stretched'.
In the version of this printed in _The Irish Nosegay_ (1789), p. 123 ff, we
find (stanza 5):

        [Larry] sed, "Be de holy, you teeffe,
        "I'll splinter you skull wid me daddle ...

In the anglicised version printed in _The Festival of Anacreon_ (1790) and
_Paddy Whack's Bottle Companion_ (1791), this becomes "by the holy".

The original Larry is immediately followed in the _The Irish Nosegay_ by
''Larry's Stiff' (p. 125ff), describing the wake over Larry's corpse, where
we have in stanza 2: "Be de hoky, our boys wou'd't let 'em."  "Larry's
Stiff" also appears in _The bug-a-Boo_ (printed by W. Goggin, Limerick,
undated, but probably slightly earlier than _The Irish Nosegay_).

Again in _The Irish Nosegay_ (p. 142), we have 'Luke Caffrey's Kilmainham
Minit', with the line, "Oh! be de Hoky, id was den dat me Port-Royal run

The form, "be de hoky!" also appears in "A New Song call'd Luke Caffrey's
Gost", as part of a prose interjection: "... he gave dem leg bail for his
appearance at de next crack-neck assembly be de hoky!"

Finally, "By de Hoky" occurs nine times in the poem, "Lord Altam's Bull,"
again in _The Irish Nosegay_, pp. 136ff.

Robin Hamilton

The American Dialect Society -

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