[Ads-l] "hooker" meaning "prostitute"

dave@wilton.net dave at WILTON.NET
Mon May 3 12:06:02 UTC 2021

When you read that citation in its full context, it is clear that prostitute is not what is intended. "Hook" and "hooker" are being used in multiple senses here: marriage, scratching with one's nails, and Corlear's hook.
Wit. – Oh, no, sir: I don’t mean that as anything loose passed between us.
Mag. – I didn’t say there was, but I want to know what you mean by using you ill. There are so many methods of using a man ill: for instance, she might have promised to marry you, and then declared the match off, Without paying you “forfeit”; that would have been using you ill.
Wit. – Oh, no, sir; I never should have thought of hooking on to the likes of her, no how; she’s got too many nails on her fingers for me, and they’re all of them as hooked as a cat’s claws, and she came very near hooking my eye out with ’em, and I got but one eye; ’tother was blowed out by a gun barrel bursting; and ven a feller has got but one eye, I don’t call that no kind of behavior, no how, to try to hook out both on ‘em, so as to make him totumly blind on both sides of his head. That’s what I calls using a feller ill.
Mag. – What did you try to hook out his eye for?
Pris. – ’Cause he called me a hooker, and so I thought I might as well earn my name as well.
Mag. – What did he call you hooker for?
Wit. – ’Cause she allers hangs round the hook, your honner.
-----Original Message-----
From: "George Thompson" <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, May 2, 2021 7:27pm
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "hooker" meaning "prostitute"

I posted the following to the group perhaps 20 years ago. It led to an
exchange of emails with Prof. Maher that became sufficiently acrimonious
that I invited him to stop, assuring him that I would delete future emails
unopened and unread.

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

I suppose I will concede that this does not make it explicit that "hooker"
meant "prostitute", but clearly it was a term of abuse when addressed to a
I also think that the Witness was a folk etymologist. The Hook was an area
of NYC frequented by sailors on shore and others seeking low life, but
still, I think it's as likely, at least, that a "hooker" was a woman who,
like a fisherman -- fisherperson, that is -- lures poor innocent men into
improper doings.


On Sun, May 2, 2021 at 3:29 PM James Landau <
00000c13e57d49b8-dmarc-request at listserv.uga.edu> wrote:

> Thomas P. Lowry MD _The Stories the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Six in the
> Civil War_Mechanicsburg PA: Stackpoloe Books, 1994, ISBN for the paperback
> edition 978-0-8117-1153-1
> A partial version of this book is available on Google Books. Search on
> "were called hookers".
> extracts from page 147 (apparently this is the page number in the
> paperback edition)
> <begin quote>The 1976 _Supplement to the OED_ lists the word ["hooker"] as
> American slang for prositute, giving its earliest use as 1845.<snip>William
> Craigie's 1942 _Dictionary of American English_ cities [sic] the Corlear's
> Hook area of New York City, where houses of ill fame were
> concentrated...Craigie found "hooker" as a term for prostitute in use in
> 1859 [3]<snip>A University of North Caroline professor has found an 1845
> letter written by a student to a classmate, using "hooker" in the sense of
> prostitute [5]<snip>The 1968 Dictionary of the Underword, published in
> London, gives the same derivation ass Craigie, and cites the source as
> Bartlett's Americanism, published in 1859.<end quote>
> Unfortunately the page containing footnotes [3] and [5] is not available
> from Google Books. Anybody with better library access than I is welcome to
> further research the above.
> Dr. Lowry also discusses, without endorsing it, the legend that
> prostitutes were called "hookers" after Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, a
> less-than-outstanding Union general in the Civil War. I might add that the
> existence of this legend, whether true or false, us evidence that "hooker"
> was a well-known term for prostitute in the Civil War era, as this legend
> certainly antedates Xaviera Hollander's book.
> James Landau
> jjjrlandau at netscape.com
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=DwIFaQ&c=slrrB7dE8n7gBJbeO0g-IQ&r=v2Wtu7DQZxSBMSJv-oEMNg&m=nOO9i5KXgOSNUY9FbkBHjSGyFpaUhRv5iSPdWSpRVbM&s=MA6S4GqOxS9QWotobxb2k1WJg-oFO09AKRr0tQa-yAw&e=

George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

But when aroused at the Trump of Doom / Ye shall start, bold kings, from
your lowly tomb. . .
L. H. Sigourney, "Burial of Mazeen", Poems. Boston, 1827, p. 112

The Trump of Doom -- also known as The Dunghill Toadstool. (Here's a
picture of his great-grandfather.)

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

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

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