Sunday, July 24, 2005


How do you spell "loogie"?

Here's the Google search I did to check the spelling of the phrase "hock a loogie" when I wrote that in yesterday's post:


I'm reading Stephen Ambrose's history of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Undaunted Courage, which observes in an aside that the late 18th and early 19th centuries were a period of "free spelling" for written English.

In our current time of standard English spelling, does it make sense to have standard spelling for onomatopoeic slang like "hock a loogie"? The American Heritage online dictionary has no entry for "loogie" (or "lugie"), but UrbanDictionary tells us what we already know: it's a "large slimy gob of spit." Spelled with the double-o.

"Hock" in this context means to collect that slimy gob with that distinctive sound -- the hard, Hebraic "ch" sound that is not used in standard spoken English, though it is often made by 10-12 year old boys when trying to create the sound effect of an explosion.

The actual hocking sound, I once heard a comedian say, is most frequently heard on the streets of New York, and is more effective than a police siren to make you look around in alarm.

Technically, "hock" could also be rendered as "hawk" or "hack," and there's no real reason why "loogie" couldn't be spelled "lugie" or even "lewgie." But I'm pleased to find that Google has set about to standardize the spelling.


For the other part of the phrase, does have an entry privileging the "hawk" spelling.
'To hock' (with the primary entry under Jeremy's 'hawk' spelling') is listed in the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE -- a wonderful resource) in the meaning 'to cough, to clear one's throat, to spit out phlegm' (or something to that effect). It's listed as chiefly northeastern and midland southern. Coming from the midland south, I know the term in this meaning (though I only learned the collocation with 'loogie' as an adult, from somebody from Philadelphia).

Using a fricative in pronouncing it would surely be onomatopoetic, imitating a coughing sound, or throat clearing, right?

As for the vowel, the vowels in ‘hack’, ‘hawk’ and ‘hock’ are changing dramatically in different parts of the US right now. ‘Hawk’ and ‘hock’ are pronounced the same from most (I think) of Pennsylvania through the lower Midwest, and throughout the West (a merger spreading back east as far as Minnesota now). A lot of areas are ‘fronting’ the vowel traditionally found in ‘hockey’, making it like ‘hacky [sack]’ (a stereotype of Chicago speech, though many folks from there don’t seem to have the feature). So, the way I pronounce ‘to hock’ at least, it has to be written ‘hock’, but lots of people would hear it as ‘hawk’ and some as ‘hack’.
Jeremy: it's a red letter day for me when I post something that captures the interest of your inner linguist.

Anon 3:26: This is exactly why you should start a blog. Your head is filled with these linguistics insights that simply can't all be worked into your current writing and conversational outlets. BTW, if I don't actually know you, then please disregard my comment. I mean you can start your own blog, and all...
Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]