• clodhopper •
klahd-hah-pêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A heavy leathery work shoe that laces up to the ankle. 2. (Offensive) A country bumpkin, a clumsy uncouth oaf.
Notes: This week is a week of lexical contrasts: yesterday's word was genteel so today's word refers to the least genteel shoe there is. The few attempts at expanding it have been clodhopperish (one example) themselves: clodhoppership, clodhopperdom, and so forth. Today's word simply lacks the derivational sophistication of words borrowed from French and Latin.
In Play: Today we hear this word mostly in the plural referring to heavy work shoes or just shoes we don't like for some reason: "Gilliam! When will you learn to clean your dirty clodhoppers before walking into my kitchen?!" However, the original, even more offensive, meaning of this word still lurks out there: "I was surprised to see someone as genteel and sophisticated as Lil Abner out at a hillbilly banjo concert with a clodhopper like Duane Pipes."
Word History: The original sense of today's word emerged in the middle of the 17th century. It referred to a farmer who used a horse-drawn plow and hence had to hop over the clods it churned up. It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that the meaning was narrowed to the type of shoes such plowmen normally wore. We have already covered the history of clod. Hop pops up in several other Germanic languages in such guises as Swedish hoppa, Danish hoppe, German hopfen, and Dutch huppen. (We are grateful to Gail Granum, who—I'm sure—never associates with clodhoppers, for suggesting this lexical curmudgeon as today's Good Word.)
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