A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

Recent entries:
“Rule #1 to working out: Never skip Monday” (5/26)
“Music picks you up from where people leave you” (5/26)
“My college graduation was in an arena, and it was hot in there, like 5,000 degrees” (5/26)
“In America, you can always find a party. In Russia, the party always finds you” (5/26)
“Some people just need a high-five. In the face. With a chair” (5/26)
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Entry from July 12, 2004
Hooker
This term is often, incorrectly, "credited" to Civil War General Joseph Hooker and the exploits of his men (1860s) in Washington, D.C. Not that Washington doesn't have hookers, but we're talking "firsts" here.

Irving Lewis Allen's City in Slang( (1993), pages 184-186, nicely describes the term:

The earliest written record of hooker is in 1845. (...) The simple idea of "hooking" as coarse sexual persuasion is probably the root sense of the word. (...)The adoption and use of hooker in New York may have been reinforced by the place name of COrlears Hook, a famous slum and red-light district once on the East Side waterfront. The area was locally known as The Hook. John Russell Bartlett in the 1859 edition of his Dictionary of Americanisms attributed, wihtout proof, the origin of the word to COrlears Hook: "Hooker. A resident of the Hook, i.e., a strumpet, a sailor's trull. So called from the number of houses of ill-fame frequented by sailors at the Hook (i.e., Colear's Hook) in the city of New York."

Since City in Slang was published, my colleague at the American Dialect Society, NYU librarian George Thompson, has found a "hooker" earlier than 1845. (If she's that old, George can have her. But I digress.)

We await further citations in digitized databases, but a New York origin seems likely.
Posted by Barry Popik
Workers/People • (0) Comments • Monday, July 12, 2004 • Permalink