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Hawk / hauck / hock a louie / loogie / lunger / loogin
Posted: 07 February 2011 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I know it looks erudite:

http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/more/336/

But I’m not satisfied with the rather two-dimensional way this question was answered. Propagated all over the Internet, this has the appearance of authority without the basis. Putting two references together and adding various suppositions from personal memory, and then dressing it in this authoritative-looking garb, is not authoritative. But it’s what everyone will assume is correct, perhaps for centuries.

Who cares if hauck is an old word, and lunger is another oldish word, and you first see a reference to this slang around 1970? Was any research done on the expression in other languages? The melting pot of America brought millions into diverse neighborhoods, and language interacted in many ways that did not appear in literature. Usually, this kind of expression is orally transmitted in the neighborhoods, often by children.

As just one other possibility, at least as probable as the dictionary two-step: look up “harklar lunga” in Swedish. It means “he hacks up (a lung)”.

(By the way, not listed in the “hang a louie” mention in the description on the page listed above, “hang a louie” is slang in some parts of the country for turn left.)

[ Edited: 07 February 2011 01:19 PM by Peter Zelchenko ]
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Posted: 07 February 2011 01:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t understand the need for the combative tone of your post.  Methinks you have been here in a former life…

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Posted: 07 February 2011 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Addendum: You can sometimes get cues from the likelihood and structure of some of the variants. If we are seeing both “lunger” and “loogin,” then regardless of outside sources, that added “n” sound may be closer to the original and then elided. Likewise, I’ve heard “loogin” in the Chicago area, which would not be likely to invert from “lunger.” Also, why the “loo” sound if an English “lung-er” is the supposed origin? Where would “loo” have come from? That important variant hints at a Germanic origin not originally English.

So, that adds some support, admittedly weak without additional information, for loogin > (loogie, lunger) > louie. I don’t provide much support aside from my oral folk ear for “loogin” and yet you still have to explain the existence of the “loo” sound in loogie.

Oral passage is phonetic first, then written. And so, your example of “hauck” and “hock” would really be almost irrelevant variants, except you miss something important: the hint that somewhere in America they were perhaps sounding out “hauck” and elsewhere “hock” again suggests a northern Germanic origin of that word as well (Swedish? Dutch? I would look toward Swedish). Listen to the naive phoneticians trying to duplicate the sounds in our alphabet and that will give you the most valuable clues to the original language.

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Posted: 07 February 2011 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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ElizaD - 07 February 2011 01:19 PM

I don’t understand the need for the combative tone of your post.  Methinks you have been here in a former life…

I guess drastic claims call for strong language. This is passing off as authoritative; it lacks rigor. Read my response and you will see what I mean. And I’m a rank amateur; I pretend to no big web site, only my love of language, which is enough to call on myself to defend etymology. I like this site, and so you should work very hard to maintain a good reputation.

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Posted: 07 February 2011 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I like this site, and so you should work very hard to maintain a good reputation.

I suppose that should be reason enough for anyone ...

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Posted: 07 February 2011 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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ElizaD - 07 February 2011 01:41 PM

I like this site, and so you should work very hard to maintain a good reputation.

I suppose that should be reason enough for anyone ...

...Except that I am not trying to maintain a reputation.

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Posted: 07 February 2011 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m a rank amateur

Yes, that’s clear enough.  Enjoy your amateurism!  You’re better than all those fancy so-called experts quoting their fancy books from overpriced university presses!  Fight the power!!

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Posted: 07 February 2011 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Actually, I think I demonstrated pretty adequately here that my callow amateur commentary can at least partly stand up to your complaints. In other words, I have made some good points. I realize I’m in your territory and that you should feel threatened like an animal; go ahead and defend the original thesis. Do you see something wrong with my propositions? Or should you support fixing the article so that posterity gets the best possible truth?

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Posted: 08 February 2011 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’d be happy to “fix” the article, but I’m not sure exactly what you’re complaining about. You make general statements about it lacking “authority,” but don’t say anything meaningful. Is there anything that’s actually wrong about it? What information would you like to see in it? The main point of writing this article was to answer a question about the different variants in slang: What was the original form of the slang phrase? I believe it does that, but I’ll listen to any thoughtful comments to the contrary.

As to a foreign language origin, it is highly unlikely in a slang phrase this recent. The phrase is clearly assembled from words already in English, not borrowed from another language. The variation is ascribable to the normal change occurs that happens in oral transmission when the original referents are not clear. Recourse to phonetic changes due to variation among Germanic languages is a trip down the garden path for a phrase like this.

A final piece of advice. If you want people to do something, especially correct something they’ve done wrong, a bit of tact in how you phrase the request is likely to be more effective than a haughty and combative tone. You need to persuade. And so far you’ve only persuaded me about certain unpleasant aspects of your personality.

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Posted: 08 February 2011 11:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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You write: I’d be happy to “fix” the article, but I’m not sure exactly what you’re complaining about. You make general statements about it lacking “authority,” but don’t say anything meaningful. Is there anything that’s actually wrong about it? What information would you like to see in it? The main point of writing this article was to answer a question about the different variants in slang: What was the original form of the slang phrase? I believe it does that, but I’ll listen to any thoughtful comments to the contrary.


I thought I said something meaningful. In capsule, then: a quick look at the phonetic dynamics of some of the variants places doubt on the value of referring strictly to English sources. In addition, among the sources you use, the older ones do not confirm the two words clearly in combination, the recent sources do not demonstrate an actual recent English origin.

The most important point is the phonetic anomaly. The complicating fact that English has Germanic roots makes it equally probable, given no further evidence, that the expression either came from earlier English (as you claim without adequate justification) or was imported into the Melting Pot recently from another Germanic language (as I suspect without adequate refutation). The fact of the variants preserved to this day is evidence that may steer us toward the latter proposition. The gap between “hauk a loogie” from around the 1970s, and really almost anything in the past sources, is a serious problem.

The examples were things that sound like “hauck” and “loong’a” (spelling is absolutely irrelevant but I provide the alternatives in the original post title for those who come searching, lacking a soundex search). The fact of the sounding of “hauck” and “hock” (and that we’ve never seen “hack") means you have to explain, with no sources, how a 300-year gap will apparently preserve a 17th-century English pronunciation of the word. More significantly, there is the “loo” and the “er” or “a” suffix. Just because there exists an English word “lunger” (and it is most likely pronounced as our “lung") is too simplistic an explanation. Your 20th-century source citing “cough up a lunger” may easily be a re-formation of some contemporaneous “hauck a loong’a” from Dutch or Swedish or Danish or something else. In fact, it offers a good likelihood of it that would back up the non-English provenance proposition. Thousands of foreign expressions came into our language in the immigration boom between around 1850 and 1930.

There is a serious cloud over the word “lunger” in general, if it was pronounced like the word “lung” at the time of your 20th century source’s use of it. You’d have to explain how we got “loogie” from “lung-er”.

You write: As to a foreign language origin, it is highly unlikely in a slang phrase this recent. The phrase is clearly assembled from words already in English, not borrowed from another language. The variation is ascribable to the normal change occurs that happens in oral transmission when the original referents are not clear. Recourse to phonetic changes due to variation among Germanic languages is a trip down the garden path for a phrase like this.


Clearly assembled? When? Why “loon” and not consistently “lun”?

The most important fact that you overlook here is that there are dominant phonetic variants that sound more other-Germanic than English. Explain those oddments and I’ll disappear.

I can accept “hauk” alone, or even “loong’er” alone. But the two together, maintaining their atomic sense and meaning individually as well as an ancient pronunciation, while staying together as a unique phrase, is a puzzle that we haven’t yet solved. “Bless your heart” is not “blaisyehairtz” because the individual words maintained their independence over the centuries, while “goodbye” mutated profoundly. When such things happen, the words bend in pronunciation. I can more or less accept a specialized “hauk” standing alone that maintained itself in English over several centuries for the sole purpose to mean “cough up”—but a “loo” sound preserved so well from ME “lunge” needs more evidence, particularly since they appear to have come together. Why did they not mutate? Wouldn’t the average English speaker know the meaning of “loogie” better than we do? At the very least, if this is in fact originally an English expression, it is almost intact from, at the latest, 16th century EME, and you should be looking for it in Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.

As to sensitivity, when you put your reputation out there, your ass on the line, you should expect an occasional abrasive comment. I appreciate this site. But suggesting that you would refuse to resolve a problem merely because someone did not say “pretty please” is flat-out intellectually wrong; in fact, it may only add some justification to my question about your intellectual rigor.

[ Edited: 08 February 2011 11:25 AM by Peter Zelchenko ]
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Posted: 08 February 2011 12:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Where are you getting this “300-year gap” business?  Dave cited two late 16th century uses of “hawk” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any examples between then and now.  The OED has citations from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and the absence of 20th-century citations probably just reflects the last time the entry was updated; I’ve certainly encountered “hawk” (to bring up phlegm) without “loogie” in 20th century writing.

In other words, the evidence shows “hawk” in continuous use (in this sense) in English from the late 16th century to the present; there is no “300-year gap”.

[ Edited: 08 February 2011 01:09 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 08 February 2011 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Also, the variants I listed are spelling variants, not variations in pronunciation. English spelling often does not closely correspond to pronunciation. I’m not really sure how all these variants might be pronounced. You can’t tell that from the written records (particularly of slang, which is often recorded by people, such as journalists, who do not use the expressions themselves, but are trying to capture a phrase that they heard someone else use).

And no one is saying hawk a loogie, in whatever variant, is 300 years old. A variant of the phrase is only recorded from around 1970. The individual elements, however, are older. Hawk is quite old. Lunger dates to the 1890s. Do you have evidence that the phrase exists in other languages earlier than this? If you do, I’d love to see it.

The shift from lunger to loogie is quite easily explained by the disappearance of tuberculosis from the public consciousness. Once antibiotics made TB disappear in the mid-twentieth century, people lost the association of coughing up saliva and phlegm with lung disease. Once that happened, the word word was free to morph into other forms, like louie and loogie as it passed from person to person and social group to social group. The fact that there are so many variants of the phrase indicates that this morphing was common and prolific.

And I don’t expect a “pretty please.” The regulars around here will happily point to examples where I have admitted I was wrong and happily changed the site to reflect the input of others. But go back and reread the first paragraph you wrote with an objective eye, as if you weren’t the person who wrote it, and then honestly tell me that it isn’t insulting. All I’m saying is that you will be more successful in life if you show a little tact rather than jumping in and starting to kick dirt clods into people’s faces.

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Posted: 08 February 2011 06:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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BTW, Googlebooks turns up “hawked a lunger” from 1976.

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Posted: 08 February 2011 08:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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All I’m saying is that you will be more successful in life if you show a little tact rather than jumping in and starting to kick dirt clods into people’s faces.

That depends entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish. I’m guessing it was the perfect tactic for PZ to accomplish his goal.

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Posted: 09 February 2011 06:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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What happydog said.

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Posted: 10 February 2011 07:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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And then it got quiet. The internet is full of Emily Litellas who can’t bring themselves to say “Never mind.”

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