Monday, February 05, 2007

Wrap That Hoe

We are loath to let go of meanings that we learned as youngsters. As with our children, it’s sometimes painful to let words grow up and expand in different directions.

For instance, I have a listener who calls in every few months to bemoan the “loss” of the word gay. I really don’t think that he’d be using it in the older sense today except when discussing the Gay Nineties, but I accept that his distress is real.

There’s another word that has been transmogrified in recent decades, but I don’t hear any rumblings or protests. That word is rapper, and I found it delightfully instructive to discover what it really means by going back to some turn-of-the-century (20th, that is) dictionaries.

• One who raps or knocks; specifically, a spirit-rapper.

• One who, or that which, raps or knocks; specifically, the knocker of a door.

• An extravagant oath or lie. [Slang]

• In coal mining, a lever with a hammer attached at one end, placed at the mouth of a shaft or incline for giving signals to the banksman, by rapping on an iron plate.

• A complainant, plaintiff; a prosecutor. [Slang]

• An itinerant purchaser of antiques; esp. one who buys valuable objects cheaply from credulous householders.

• A rattle or clapper.

• Something remarkably good or large.

• One who counterfeits coins.

• One who raps at house doors to ask for food; a tramp. [Slang]

*Sigh* Let us now long for the good old days, when hoes were agricultural implements.

SIDEBAR: rap music

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