The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..
Defined by the dictionary as “a country farmer, or ploughman”, this phrase has managed to survive the centuries. It evolved into meaning someone clumsy or foolish and then in turn came to be used for a large and heavy shoe. The phrase was first used in the late seventeenth century and the origins are unknown, but the most recent definition of the shoe might be a return to how the phrase evolved. That would be because clod, meaning a clump of something (and a word that used to mean the same as clot), referred to the mass of mud that could stick to shoes as farmers walked across muddy fields.
The hopper might be a play on the word grasshopper most dictionaries suggest, but since that word meant ‘to hop’ or ‘a device to collect grain’, both of which were used in the seventeenth century, both seem possible.
It’s nearly always ‘clodhopper’ rather than ‘clod hopper’ and it’s fallen out of usage somewhat over recent decades.