Playing Hooky

“Making Heads or Tails of Idioms” Newsletter. Volume 1. Issue 9. Part 2 of 2.

Original Release: 7/31/2011

***Theme: “I surprised myself and used Idioms!”***

What was said? Are you going to play hooky?

Did someone really say that?  Yes… I did.  One would expect that after two years of an idiom newsletter, that I may begin to use Idioms myself. Hence the “I surprised myself and used Idioms” SPECIAL EDITION newsletter!

What does it mean?  Play hooky/hookey: to stay away from school without permission; sometimes refers to staying away from a job or avoiding a duty

Origin: A few theories of origin:

a) This Americanism meaning to skip school most likely comes from the Dutch hoekje, a name for the game of hide and seek (first recorded in late-1840s).  However, it is sometimes suggested that the phrase may come from the phrasal verb “to hook it” meaning to run away or clear out.

b) Hooky first appeared in print in 1848, although the term had probably been in common use among children long before then. The phrase “play hooky” seems to have been an American invention and has a number of variations: in Boston, children who skip school were “hooking jack”.

c) Hooky may have developed from the colloquial phrase “hooky-crooky” common in the early-19th century, which mean dishonest or underhanded.


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6 responses to “Playing Hooky

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  6. Neil B Hagan

    I used the idiom as a school aged child in late 60′, 70’s, was mostly used by adults then. It was more common to use; skipping school, or cutting class, the term, playing hooky was considered dated, and un-hip during that time. We always assumed the phrase came from skipping school to go fishing, “the hook,” like in the little rascals TV show.

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