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Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day 154

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the current health crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored….


The dictionary defines this as “half a man and half a boy, a lad between both” and the word continues to be used today, albeit infrequently, to describe an ungainly or awkward young man. The word dates back to at least the sixteenth century and it was used by Charles Dickens in his writings in the nineteenth century.

One dictionary tries to explain this as “from the English hobby, and Old French hoi (‘today’); the original sense may have been ‘an upstart of today'”, but this seems a bit tenuous to me. It’s thought that the word ‘hobidy-booby’ once meant scarecrow, so there’s likely some link with that, although that again is from the sixteenth century and the original meaning is lost.

Original meaning aside, this is still a beautiful word and one that should be used more.