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

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Wed May 5 10:33:25 EDT 2021


I sense a lack of consensus regarding “hookers.” A few comments, if I may.
(Preliminary: I note a copyright date by J. P. Maher of 2011. Helen Jewett, whose death in April 1836 on 41 Thomas Street NY was widely reported on, reporting, as I have yet seen, fwiw, did not call her a hooker. Some reporting on the election of 1840 used “Hookers” for “Kinderhookers,” and as far as I have seen, i.e. not far, without lewd suggestion.)
But 1846, maybe, maybe. (If this has not been noted in this context before.)
“Death at the Hook.” Discusses comparison between NY NY’s (lower Manhattan) Five Points and the Hook neighborhoods. It reports a 17 year old girl “death by Delirium Tremens.” Disapproved persons in Five Points, reportedly, hide their “deeds of darkness and knavery.”
“But on the ‘Hook’ the thing is quite different. As if proud of their degradation, the ‘Brothel Bawds’ flaunt in their tawdy gew-gaws, and, at almost all hours of the day and night, make the neighborhood ring with their bacchanalia.—Young girls, even so few as 12 and 14 summers, are the companions of toothless hags, and join them to make midnight vocal with their orgies. There is not so much thieving and cut-throat villainy perpetrated by the ‘Hookers’ as by the denizens of the Five Points [….]”
New York Evening Express, May 4, 1846 3/3 [Am. Historical N.]
Stephen Goranson
http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/


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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of dave at wilton.net <dave at WILTON.NET>
Sent: Monday, May 3, 2021 10:02 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Subject: Re: "hooker" meaning "prostitute"


I found it to be a deeply flawed article. Not only was it difficult to follow his argument--it's a rambling account without a coherent logical structure--but he seems to be intent on proving a hypothesis rather than unbiased analysis. Also, he evinces little knowledge of how slang operates or of lexicographic practices, e.g., claiming that the lack of entries for hooker=prostitute in mainstream dictionaries before the 1960s was evidence that the sense didn't exist. I also disagree with his analysis of the 1845 letter.

But he does give a fairly exhaustive list of early citations, and that's very useful.

-----Original Message-----
From: "ADSGarson O'Toole" <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, May 3, 2021 3:34pm
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Subject: Re: [ADS-L] "hooker" meaning "prostitute"



The article "The Unhappy Hookers; Origin of Hooker 'Prostitute'" by J.
Peter Maher that was linked by Gerald Cohen includes a discussion of
the 1845 student letter on page 28 and 29. Maher concluded that the
word "hooker" within the student letter did not mean prostitute.

https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://scholarsmine.mst.edu/artlan_phil_facwork/171/__;!!OToaGQ!6Pud8JH5kxjuXZqOgJjRVXe5g2XIDUWYBI93wW1R_chVHdDbXNu_MJ7NKDvmsSci$

It is a complex topic, and I admit that I have only quickly scanned
Maher's overall article because it is not in my primary area of
research. Nevertheless, his analysis of the 1845 letter looked
plausible to me.

Garson

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
>
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