Wednesday’s Word: hoople

Most slang words fall into a handful of categories. Among the most common:

  1. Body parts.
  2. Sex acts.
  3. Racial, ethnic or gender slurs
  4. Fools

Since the first three categories are completely off limits for this ‘I don’t want to offend anybody’ blog, I’ve had to double down on the fourth category for the Wednesday’s Word series. Already I’ve covered prat, nincompoop, berk, jerk, and goober. Today’s entry is hoople.

Perhaps I’m showing my age when I say that when I hear the word hoople, the first thing I think of is this:

Mott the Hoople novel

It turns out that the 70’s rock band Mott the Hoople was named after a book. An American author, Willard Manus, wrote a novel titled Mott the Hoople in 1966. I haven’t read it, but from the reviews I take it that the main character Norman Mott was a lazy dude who thought up various scams so as to avoid work. Manus himself borrowed the term hoople from a syndicated newspaper cartoon strip called Our Boarding House, an establishment overseen by the proprietress Martha Hoople.

Our Boarding House cartoon

Hoople is also a place. There is a town by that name in North Dakota with a population under 250. It was named after an early settler Alan Hoople. Hoople is the home of Southern North Dakota University at Hoople, an institution that exists solely in the imagination of composer/comedian Peter Shickele, who is also the mastermind behind the equally fictional P.D.Q. Bach.

P.D.Q. Bach

My understanding of the word hoople goes back to the days when I was a teenager working in an ice cream store in Clifton, N.J. Whenever one of us, in our youthful state of distracted nonchalance, would screw something up, our boss would pronounce the offending party a hoople. He was a cheerful guy and it was said in a jocular, not abusive manner. Thus I think of hoople as somewhat synonymous with goofball.

In that vein there is a variation, hooplehead, defined by as “an idiot. He’s stupid, ignorant and illiterate.”

Not too many of the dictionaries seem to want to consider hoople. But the Urban Dictionary has no such reservations and here’s some choice entries:

–A useless or self-serving organization. A wasteful business run by incompetents. A public sector organization with no useful purpose other than to generate paperwork, internal reports and provide incomes for its executives.

–A derogatory term describing or referring to an unsophisticated person from a rural background or community. Sometimes disparaging. A white member of the Southern rural laboring class. A person who is an irresponsible or unscrupulous operator in business and pleasure.

–A person who frequently drinks alcohol to excess; to the point where it becomes his or her defining characteristic.

–A bird that cannot fly straight. Someone not responsible with money.

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4 Responses to Wednesday’s Word: hoople

  1. Greetings. I read the M The H novel years ago. The only thing I remember about it is that I liked it. I can’t remember much, if anything, about 80% of the books I’ve read in my adult life. Sad but true.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. What a really informative and well-fleshed post! I too automatically thought of Mott the band and never thought of it having so many connotations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cheriewhite says:

    Thank you for broadening my vocabulary, Ken. Until I found this post, I’d never heard of such a word. I guess I would be a hoople since I was once a white member of the southern working class. LOL 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bumba says:

    Only four categories for slang words? You have me plumbing my memory for esoteric grade-school epithets, and so far all I’ve dredged up is #2.


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