Thursday, June 15, 2006

Promises Kept

In a post near the end of April, I mentioned reading a highly improbable explanation for the origin of the expression "By hook or by crook." I said that I would do some checking on that phrase and see what I could come up with, and ICFAB* keeps it's promises--eventually.
From the fantastic Word Detective website, here is an explanation that is at least as likely as the Jn 21 proposal:

Unfortunately, although "by hook or by crook" first occurs in print way back in 1380 and is still common today, no one knows exactly where it came from, or what the "hook" and "crook" in question were. One theory, perhaps the most plausible, is that while tenants on English manors were not allowed to cut trees for firewood, the lord of the manor permitted them to have all the branches they could pull down with a shepherd's crook or a curved knife on a pole called a "hook." Since firewood was a basic necessity, "by hook or by crook" in this case would have fit the bill of meaning "by any means necessary, even if awkward or difficult."
Incidentally, by the 19th century "by hook or by crook" had mutated into the term "hooky-crooky," meaning "dishonest or sneaky," which in turn eventually gave us the term "playing hooky" (or "hookey"), meaning to be a truant.

Well, there you are. Don't like either explanation? Click the "Word Detective" link and read a different explanation that seems truly fatuous!

Listening to: "The Okeh Ellington"

*It Came From Allen's Brain

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