Showing posts with label Bum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bum. Show all posts

Feb 13, 2015

Bums, Hobos, Tramps, Vagrants, and Vagabonds

Hobo, tramp, and bum are all terms for a person who is homeless and without a steady job. While most folks use these words interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the three. A hobo is someone who travels from place to place looking for work, a tramp is someone who travels, but avoids work whenever possible, and a bum does not care to work or travel.

While no one is quite sure how the word “hobo” developed, it seems to have originated in the American West after the US Civil War, when many discharged veterans were looking for employment. The hobo population also increased during the Great Depression, as unemployed men took to train-hopping with the hopes of finding better prospects on the road. Although “hobo” is a slang word, its meaning was well known by the late 19th century and Funk and Wagnall's even listed “hobo” in the 1893 edition of its dictionary. It was derived from the term hoe-boy meaning "farmhand", or a greeting such as "Ho, boy!". Bill Bryson suggests in Made in America, 1998 that it could either come from the railroad greeting, "Ho, beau!" or a syllabic abbreviation of homeward bound.

The British Hobo Museum exhibits hobo history and lore. Initially just a "Hobo Convention" museum, in the late 1990s it evolved into the Hobo History Museum.

The word “tramp” comes from a Middle English verb meaning to “walk with heavy footsteps,” and, like “hobo,” it also became widely used after the Civil War. It initially referred to migrant workers searching for permanent work, but it was later used to designate those who “prefer the transient way of life.” In Britain the term was widely used to refer to vagrants in the early Victorian period. It is also used for a sexually promiscuous woman.

Lately, the word is experiencing a bit of resurgence as many wanderers have adopted the title to more clearly differentiate their way of life from hobos. Some, for example, intentionally avoid participating in the economic system and therefore take pride in their 'tramp' status and may even view themselves as superior to hobos.

A vagrant could be described as being "a person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging." Both "vagrant" and "vagabond" derive from Latin word vagari "wander." The term "vagabond" is derived from Latin vagabundus. In Middle English, "vagabond" originally denoted a criminal.

Panhandling is a solicitation made in person for immediate donation of money or other gratuity. Bottom line, most bums, tramps, and vagrants, but only some hobos panhandle. All politicians and some other groups and individuals engage in panhandling or public fundraising for many causes and charities.

Aug 8, 2014

National Hobo Convention

For some odd reason, the ambulance reminded me that beginning this week, August 7-10-2014 is the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa (close to Mason City and Clear Lake). There is a parade on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.  "Some in rags, some in tags, some in velvet gowns."

Hobos are migratory workers, some with a special skill or trade, others ready to work at any task, but always willing to work to make his way. The tramp is a traveling non-worker, moving from town to town, but never willing to work for the handouts he begs for. A bum is the lowest class, too lazy to roam around and never works.

There will be marching bands, queens, business floats, children, adults, and hobos all come down the streets in one long line and share the fun that only a Hobo Convention can provide. Following the parade, mulligan stew is available. Other events during the weekend include a 5K & 10K Walk/Run, Hobo King & Queen coronation, Hobo Museum, Hobo Auction, Hobo Memorial Service, Vagabond Craft show, and Outdoor Classic Car Show.

Jan 10, 2014

Insulting Names

Many common words we use to insult people did not begin with our current definition. Here are a few that have changed over the years.

Punk, worthless person - Punk has long been an insult in the English language. Shakespeare used it as an especially dirty word for prostitute in 1602. Eventually it came to mean young male prostitutes. This evolved by the 1920s to mean "young, inexperienced boy.” Inexperienced soon translated to good-for-nothing and criminal. During the 1970s, British men in spiky leathers and Mohawk hair styles were called punks.

Brat, - badly behaved child - The worst kind of children in the olden days were very poor. Brat as slang dates from the 1500s in England, and meant beggar’s child. Beggars often made sure their children were prominently displayed to garner more sympathy and money, which was annoying to passersby. Bratt is also an old English word meaning 'ragged garment' or 'cloak'. Brats often wore bratts, affirming that they were in fact, brats.

Jerk, obnoxious or dull person - Because older trains ran on steam, they often needed to be refilled with water. Water towers were built periodically along the train tracks and had hanging chains that the boiler man would “jerk” to start the water flowing. Towns sprang up around many of these water-stops and smaller ones were usually called jerk-water towns and their populations jerks.

Dunce, slow-witted or stupid person - John Duns Scotus was a brilliant 15th century philosopher. He pioneered the idea that we had the exact same kind of goodness inside us that God did, but a lot less. Unfortunately, his followers, known as the Dunses in the century succeeding his death, were reputed to be the most stubborn, closed-minded philosophizers around. Mr. Scotus’ name became attached more to his stubborn followers than to his own work.

Bum, one who performs a function poorly - We owe the legendary German work ethic for the introduction of the word bum to mean useless. It meant 'buttocks' since the 13th century (and is still used as such by many). The use of the word became popular during the Civil War, when German immigrants swelled the ranks of the Yankees. The German word bummler was easily shortened to apply to any soldier, because he was a loafer, sitting on his bum all day.

Barbarian, uncivilized or savage - “Bar-bar” was how ancient Greeks imitated the babbling stammer of any language that was not Greek. Thus barbarian came to mean the sort of lowbrow foreigners.

Cretin, stupid or insensitive person - Cretin is an insult that evolved from a real and dreadful medical condition. It comes from a word used in an 18th century Alpine dialect. The word was crestin, used to describe a dwarfed and deformed person. Cretinism was caused by lack of iodine resulting in congenital hypothyroidism.