Booby hatch

Posted by ESC on August 30, 2002

In Reply to: Booby hatch?? posted by Rod van Ausdall on August 30, 2002

: : : ok, thats a good one - who - where - when started that one?

: : BOOBY HATCH - "'Booby,' for 'a dunce, a nimcompoop,' is recorded in English as far back as 1599, probably deriving from the Spanish 'boho,' 'a fool,' which in turn, may come from the Latin 'balbus,' 'stammering.'.'Booby hatch,' for an insane asylum, may have its beginnings in the 'booby hatch,' a police wagon used to carry criminals to jail. This term can be traced back to 1776 ." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: On board ships there are hatches which are large and easily entered - as opposed to a hatch which is small and more difficult to enter. These large hatches are called booby hatches.

: Inasmuch as many many terms stem from the British Navy, I nominate this one also in the sense a booby hatch is easily entered by a land lubber or other person unfamiliar with vesels.

I found another reference. I think what Ms. Isil is saying is that "booby hatch" has its origins in a slow-witted bird -- a booby.

"Booby Hatch (mental institution). Some etymologists give a nautical derivation for this insensitive colloquial expression. They cite the practice of punishing sailors by confining them in the booby hatch - a small, hooded compartment located near the bow of the ship. The term is said to have arisen as a result of the screams of the unfortunate sailors imprisoned in the cramped stifling confines of the booby hatch It is more likely however, that the slang connotation arose from the word 'booby' itself. 'Booby' has its origins in the Spanish word 'boho' (slow-witted and foolish). In 1634, the celebrated author and traveler Sir Thomas Herbert described a tropical bird that perched on the yards of ships and allowed itself to be caught easily: 'one of the sailors espying a bird fitly called a Booby, he mounted to the top mast and took her. The quality of which bird is to sit still, not valuing danger.' It is easy to imagine the fun and diversion the bored, lonely sailors had in catching these dimwitted birds by hand, and confining them in a small, hooded coop called a 'hutch,' a word easily corrupted to 'hatch.'" From "When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay: Seafaring Words in Everyday Speech" by Olivia A. Isil (International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, McGraw-Hill, 1996)