Tag Archives: trains

What was the word hobo derived from?

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What was the word hobo derived from?

mike1999

JOHN PRINE “A HOBO SONG”

 

ENGLISH HOBOS
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What was the word hobo derived from?

Answer:
For two centuries, in both England and America, homeless wanderers from place to place had been known as tramps. Then an unknown American came up with a new word for them: hobo. Researcher Barry Popik has found it used in a http://www.answers.com/topic/breezy letter from New York City in the New Orleans Picayune of August 19, 1848: “Well, here I am once more in Gotham, after three years’ absence–three years which have passed as http://www.answers.com/topic/agreeably-2 as time usually passes with people in this digging world. During that period I have floated about and circulated round to some considerable extent…. a year’s bronzing and ‘ho-boying’ about among the mountains of that charming country called Mexico, has given me a slight dash of the Spanish.”
Where this odd word came from nobody knows for sure, but the “slight dash of the Spanish” gives a hint. It could be borrowed from the Spanish hobo, or jobo, a word which appeared in print as far back as 1516. This word, in turn, comes from the Taino Indian language spoken in the West Indies and refers to a tree that grows there. How could a tree become a http://www.answers.com/topic/tramp? Well, over the centuries Spanish jobo acquired other more relevant meanings. In Mexico jobo can refer to a Guatemalan; in Cuba, correr jobos means “to play http://www.answers.com/topic/truant.” So to avoid the http://www.answers.com/topic/taint of the term tramp, an American wanderer might be happy to adopt the exotic hobo.

In American English, it has continued to imply relatively higher status than vagrant or tramp. The exact definition has depended on who was using the word, but hobo has generally meant “a wanderer who is willing to work.”
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THE HOBO CODE

An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri. This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:

1.
Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.

2.
When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

3.
Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

4.
Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.

5.
When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.

6.
Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.

7.
When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.

8.
Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

9.
If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.

10.
Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

11.
When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

12.
Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.

13.
Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.

14.
Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.

15.
Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

16.
If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

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HOBO TERMS

Accommodation car the caboose of a train
Angellina a young inexperienced child
Bad Road a train line rendered useless by some hobo’s bad action or crime
Banjo (1) a small portable frying pan; (2) a short, “D” handled shovel
Barnacle a person who sticks to one job a year or more
Beachcomber a hobo who hangs around docks or seaports
Big House prison
Bindle stick a collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick
Bindlestiff a hobo who carries a bindle
Blowed-in-the-glass a genuine, trustworthy individual
‘Bo the common way one hobo referred to another: “I met that ‘Bo on the way to Bangor last spring.”
Boil Up specifically, to boil one’s clothes to kill lice and their eggs; generally, to get oneself as clean as possible
Bone polisher a mean dog
Bone orchard a graveyard
Bull a railroad officer
Bullets beans
Buck a Catholic priest good for a dollar
Burger today’s lunch
C, H, and D indicates an individual is Cold, Hungry, and Dry (thirsty)
California blankets newspapers, intended to be used for bedding on a park bench
Calling in using another’s campfire to warm up or cook
Cannonball a fast train
Carrying the banner keeping in constant motion so as to avoid being picked up for loitering or to keep from freezing
Catch the Westbound to die
Chuck a dummy pretend to faint
Cover with the moon sleep out in the open
Colt Freese one who rummages for discarded food at restaurants before his meal
Cow crate a railroad stock car
Crumbs lice
Docandoberry anything that grows on the side of a river that’s edible
Doggin’ it traveling by bus, especially on the Greyhound bus line
Easy mark a hobo sign or mark that identifies a person or place where one can get food and a place to stay overnight
Elevated under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Flip to board a moving train
Flop a place to sleep, by extension, “Flophouse”, a cheap hotel
Glad rags one’s best clothes
Graybacks lice
Grease the track to be run over by a train
Gump a chicken[9]
Honey dipping working with a shovel in the sewer
Hot (1) a fugitive hobo; (2) a decent meal: “I could use three hots and a flop”
Hot Shot a train with priority freight, stops rarely, goes faster; synonym for “Cannonball”
Jungle an area off a railroad where hobos camp and congregate
Jungle buzzard a hobo or tramp who preys on his own
Knowledge bus a school bus used for shelter
Maeve a young hobo usually a girl
Main drag the busiest road in a town
Moniker / Monica a nickname
Mulligan a type of community stew, created by several hobos combining whatever food they have or can collect
Nickel note a five-dollar bill
On the fly jumping a moving train
Padding the hoof to travel by foot
Possum belly to ride on the roof of a passenger car (one must lie flat, on his/her stomach, to avoid being blown off)
Pullman a railroad sleeper car; most were made by George Pullman company
Punk any young kid
Reefer a compression of “refrigerator car”
Road kid a young hobo who apprentices himself to an older hobo in order to learn the ways of the road
Road stake the small amount of money a hobo may have in case of an emergency
Rum dum a drunkard
Sky pilot a preacher or minister
Soup bowl a place to get soup, bread and drinks
Snipes cigarette butts “sniped” (e.g., in ashtrays)
Spare biscuits looking for food in garbage cans (also see “Colt Freese”, above)
Stemming panhandling or begging along the streets
Tokay blanket drinking alcohol to stay warm
Yegg a traveling professional thief, or burglar

Many hobo terms have become part of common language, such as “Big House”, “glad rags”, “main drag”, and others.

PREVIOUS PUZZLER: The Confederate Soldiers Who Left Home
When the Civil War ended, soldiers returned home to find the lives they knew were gone. Many left again in the hopes of rebuilding their lives, and they were carrying something. What was the name for these men?

RAY: Here’s the answer. The Confederate soldiers returning home were called a name that arose out of a tool they were carrying. A hoe.

TOM: Farm hoes!

RAY: Exactly. The soldiers were walking the back roads, riding and jumping on trains, and sleeping out in the countryside hoping to find some kind of work.

They were called hoe boys, which came to be called hobos.

SOME INTERESTING LITERATURE ON HOBOS
English Literature Dissertation: A Study into Hobo Literature
by Nial Anderson, University of Glamorgan, UK

Index

2 – Introduction: Some Background on the Hobo
7 – A Working Life?
10 – Money
12 – To hobo or not to hobo: Choice or Curse?
15 – Rail Life
18 – Hobo: Getting into Character
22 – Writers and Tall Tales
24 – End of the Road: Conclusion
29 – References

“The imaginative young vagabond quickly loses the social instincts that make life bearable for other men. Always he hears voices calling in the night from far-away places where blue waters lap strange shores. He hears birds singing and crickets chirping a luring roundelay. He sees the moon, yellow ghost of a dead planet, haunting the earth.”

Jim Tully – Beggars of Life


“Oh ridin’ on the rattlers, a-ridin’ all the day,
And nuthin’ in yer belly all along the way;
No ‘baccy in yer pocket, and no jack for to spend,
And old John Law a-waitin’ at the next division end.”

Anonymous

 

 

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RAILROAD AMERICA -the hobo life

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RAILROAD AMERICA  -the hobo life

depression22Secret Hobo Signs 01hobo-symbols1

A TRAIN SONG TO PUT YOU IN A  HOBO STATE OF MIND

 

images (268)GMIL 2/06:  A hobo camp, c1913.

Hobos have played a big part in the history of America – one that’s often ignored. They were the nomadic workers who roamed the country at the start of the 20th century and through the Great Depression, taking work wherever they could and never spending too long in any one place. In their extensive travels, hobos learned to leave notes for each other, giving information on the best places to camp or find a meal, or dangers that lay ahead. This unique Hobo Code was known to the brotherhood of freight train riders and used by all to keep the community of traveling workers safe, fed and imagesNT3QMJLR

in work

lFirst, a bit of history. Today, the word hobo is often used interchangeably with “bum” or “drifter,” but hobos were a very specific type of homeless traveler. Hobos traveled around for the sole purpose of finding work in every new town they visited, having usually been forced from their homes by the lack of jobs there. Bums avoided work in favor of drinking heavily, and “tramps” worked only when it was absolutely necessary.

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(images via: Railroad Police)

Because of their willingness to take the jobs that no one else wanted – and the fact that they followed a strict moral code – hobos were tolerated by some. Regardless, life as a hobo was difficult and dangerous. To help each other out, these vagabonds developed their own secret language to direct other hobos to food, water, or work – or away from dangerous situations. The Hobo Code helped add a small element of safety when traveling to new places.

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(image via: D-Arch)

The pictographic Hobo Code is a fascinating system of symbols understood among the hobo community. Because hobos weren’t typically welcomed (and were often illiterate), messages left for others in the community had to be easy for hobos to read but look like little more than random markings to everyone else to maintain an element of secrecy. The code features certain elements that appear in more than one symbol, such as the circles and arrows that made up the directional symbols. Hash marks or crossed lines usually meant danger in some form.

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GMIL 2/06:  A hobo camp, c1913.

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Many of the hoboglyphics were cryptic and nearly impossible for people outside of the hobo community to understand, even if they spotted them: a curly line inside a circle, for example, meant that there was a courthouse nearby. Other symbols were simplistic and easier to decipher: a cross meant that hobos who were willing to talk positively about religion would score a free meal.

 

The diverse symbols in the Hobo Code could be found scrawled in coal or chalk all across the country, near railyards and in other places where hobos were likely to convene. The purpose of the code was not only to help other hobos find what they needed, but to keep the entire lifestyle possible for everyone. Hobos warned each other when authorities were cracking down on vagrants or when a particular town had had its fill of beggars; such helpful messages told other hobos to lie low and avoid causing trouble until their kind was no longer quite so unwelcome in those parts.

 

Over the years, the hobo subculture has declined dramatically. One reason for this is that the hobo community was so intricately connected with the American railway. It’s much more difficult to hop on and off of a freight train undetected than it was a hundred years ago, so rail-loving hobos have steadily declined in number. Still, current estimates put around 20,000 people in the U.S. living the hobo lifestyle today. It’s easy to see why there’s not much specific data available about these wandering workers, but some sources suggest that the modern hobo movement is the result of a generation’s shunning of modern trappings. Much like city hipsters, modern hobos embrace fringe society…although living in train cars with no permanent home or job is taking that fringe society fetish much further than most hipsters ever dream of. The story of one group of modern American hobos is told in this remarkable photo essay (LINK NSFW).

 

Modern hobos may not use the complex set of codes that proved so useful for 19th century wanderers, but the always-hilarious Rob Cockerham of Cockeyed.com has come up with a modern set of symbols that might be useful for anyone who needs some covert information.

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These codes are clearly tongue-in-cheek, warning modern-day hobos (and everyone else) of such dangers as parking tickets and lawn sprinklers, and promising surprises like rich dumpsters and well-stocked bathrooms. Since not many of us ride the rails these days and it’s much more common to be stuck in the urban (or suburban) jungle, maybe this is just the type of friendly information sharing we need today.

SOME TRAIN PICTURES AND BECAUSE I LOVE TRAINS SO MUCH- MY POEM “GOOD OLD BRITISH RAIL” BY ME ANA CHRISTY

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GOOD OLD BRITISH RAIL
(circa 1966)

CLICK CLACK

the old train
rumbles
along
the track
“Wallington
Wadden
and
West Croyden”
the Indian
conductor
yells in his
sing song
tone
he clips my
ticket
fervently
and tips
his cap-
I always
had a
thing
for
conductors
especially
Indians

CLICK CLACK

feet upon
the seat
I watch
men
bowler
hats
hiding
behind
their
“times”
pretending
to read

their brief
cases
pressed
between
lanky
perfectly
creased
knees
they look
at me
sideways
uneasy
with
my
hippie
garb
don’t they
have
daughters
like
me?
with
long
flowing
skirt

boots
bangles
jangling
long hair
and
bangs

CLICK CLACK

old ladies
raincoats
and
chunky
shoes
clutching
net
shopping
bags
looking
for
bargains

rich folk
looking
to shop

Harrods
get the
same
china
as her
majesty
the queen
a human
smorgasbord
swaying
back
and forth

CLICK CLACK

an
anti-
maccasar
behind
my
head
un-fog
the
window
seeing
row
houses
tool
sheds
green
yards
laundry
blowing
in the wet
breeze
factories
car lots
taller and
taller
buildings

CLICK CLACK

HISSS

the engine
lets
off steam

“WATERLOO
end of
the line
watch
your step
disembark
ladies
and gents.”

THE ENGINE SIGHS

I hurry the
long platform
to the red
Underground
sign
down long
escalators
to the belly
of the earth
I hurry to be
on

Carnaby Street
where it’s
all about

to
happen
for me.

                         Ana Christy

http://www.darkroastedblend.com/2010/07/trains-and-railways-extravaganza-part-2.htmlImageImageImageImageImageImage