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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Word of the Week

It's been a while since we've had a Word of the Week. By now it's turning into Word of the Month. Guess I was

Playing Hooky

Yup. That's the word--words--of the week, folks. 'Cause that's what I've been doing. And 'tis the season for doing it.
We all know what it means. Did you ever think about where the phrase comes from? I mean, what IS hooky? Is it a game? How do you "play" it?

First off, the phrase is associated with skipping school. Which means it only came into use in the 19th century, around 1848, after education laws made public school attendance compulsory. Tom Sawyer "plays hookey," so we know the expression goes back that far.
Hard to imagine a time when you didn't have to go to school, but evidently we had hundreds of years of it. And, of course, once you're forced to do a thing, finding ways to escape it suddenly appear.

So...is hooky a compression of the phrase "to hook it," which, according to one source, is a 14th century term that means to make off or escape?
Or, is it a version of the word "hook" an old slang term that means to steal--kids stealing time from school.
Or maybe it's related to fishing, and the "hook"(school) is the thing you get off of, the way a fish can.
Several sources think the most likely derivation is the Dutch "hoek," which means "corner," and the game "hoekje spelen"--hide and seek--played by boys in 17th century New Amsterdam around street corners. So "playing hooky" could have become connected with school because kids who skipped school must be off playing games like hide-and-seek.
I found a couple more theories, but I'll leave them for another time. The important thing is the play itself. I'm writing this. What do you do when you play hooky?

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4 Comments:

Blogger Ellory said...

OH.. when I play hooky... I want to do something fun like go to the beach. Better yet.. just a few days with no cares and be able to read.

December 3, 2008 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

Going to the beach is a great way to play hooky, Ellory. I love the ocean. Lying under an umbrella, listening to the waves--that's the best.

December 4, 2008 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Trish Milburn said...

When I play hooky, it's mainly to sit in the recliner and watch TV and movies or curl up in bed and read a book.

December 7, 2008 at 11:57 PM  
Blogger Annie Solomon said...

Hey, Trish, I'm down with that way to play hooky, too! Now if only the recliner was at the beach...

December 8, 2008 at 11:31 AM  

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