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Getting the hook

Posted by R. Berg on March 12, 2003

In Reply to: CSI posted by ESC on March 12, 2003

: : A little time ago the US TV show CSI asked for help with a phrase. I've had another request from them. Can anyone help with this:

: : "I was very much hoping to get your assistance with another question. We are trying to find the origins of the term "getting the hook" or "give 'em the hook." An upcoming CSI episode takes place in a comedy club. A rather awful comedian is "given the hook" and kicked off stage. We were wondering where this phrase or action comes from. One of the writers speculated that it may have started in vaudeville."

: I'm going to have to start watching that show. I'm away from my library right now, but I'd be glad to have a look.

I believe the vaudeville explanation is correct. Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases" has this entry:

'get the hook!' This US c.p. derives 'from the days, up to c. 1930, of amateur vaudeville contests; it was said that the managers kept a long hook in the wings to drag off incompetent but stubbornly persistent performers. Not, of course, a c.p. in those circumstances, but it is one when some guest is not succeeding in entertaining the company; sometimes extended to losing a job' (Prof. John W. Clark, 1978).