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Re: Honkytonk - term origin?

Posted by Masakim on February 12, 2002

In Reply to: Honkytonk - term origin? posted by Word Camel on February 12, 2002

: I thought of this because I happened to catch "Honkytonk Woman" on the radio. Looked up Honkytonk and found that apart from meaning a roadside bar with pickups in the parking lot, it's also an adjective used to describe a particular variety of ragtime. Anyway, the origin is unknown and I wondered if anyone here had any ideas.

: Thanks,

: Camel

honky-tonk. The first printed use of this word for a cheap dance hall featuring gambling or burlesque shows, in a February 1894 Oklahoma newspaper, described a _honk-a-tonk_ "well attended by ball-heads, bachelors and leading citizens." No one is sure how the word originated. The British attribute it to America, calling _honky-tonk_ "Negro slang," while one American authority claims it is from the English dialect word _bonk_, "to idle about." Either way _honky-tonk_ is a reduplication, with _tonk_ repeating the sound of _honk_. "... It was nothing for a man to be drug out of them dead," testified a jazz musician of an early _honky-tonk_.
From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson

The honk-a-tonk last night was well attended by ball-heads, bachelors and leading citizens. (_Daily Ardmoreite_, February 24, 1894)

These honkey-tonks ran wide open twenty-four hours a day and it was nothing for a man to be drug out of one of them dead. Their attendance was some of the lowest caliber women in the world and their intake was from the little, pitiful gambling games they operated, waiting for a sucker to come in. (Alan Lomax, _Mister Jelly Roll_, 1950)

See
The Word Detective at
http://www.word-detective.com/012000.html#honkytonk
The Mavens' Word of the Day at
http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=20001026