Posted by Word Camel on February 12, 2002
In Reply to: Re: Honkytonk - term origin? posted by masakim 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)
: The Word Detective at
: The Mavens' Word of the Day at
As far as I recall, the word "bonk", at least as used in Britain, definitely did not mean "to idle about." Is it just me, or does almost every term to do with Jazz music have a sexual conotation? A "jelly roll" for example, is an orgasm according to the recent documentary.
The onomatopoeia idea is interesting, but I'm not completely convinced. It seems to me that if they were that common in English there'd be some contemporary ones we could point to.