hoosegow

Yee-hah! We goin’ stick you in the hoosegow! Git! Oh, yes, this word reeks of horses and gunpowder. And those three o‘s are like bullet holes. (It might be stretching it a bit much to equate the w with the door or bars on a cell in the hoosegow.) It has a hick feel, like a loose moose in your caboose, or anyway a loose cow. It’s where you might end up after a shootout at the hoedown. Hoo-hah! So of course it comes from Latin. Say what? Well, by way of Spanish. From judicatum “judged” came Spanish juzgado “tribunal,” and this word is a respelling of a dialectal version of that. And as to the old west… well, the oldest citation the Oxford English Dictionary has for this word is 1911. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t used for some time before that. But it wasn’t common in print before then. So we’re just guessing that it might have been used at the time, say, of the Pony Express (18 months in the early 1860s) and Wells Fargo stagecoaches (transcontinental to 1869, and local for decades after that).

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