Printable Version
Pronunciation: hah-bêl-di-hoy Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A hobbledehoy is an awkward, bad-mannered young boy, in particular one struggling to come to grips with adulthood.

Notes: Obviously, this funny word was created to have fun with, and the English writers have well met that expectation. Thackeray referred to this awkward stage of boyhood as 'hobbledehoyhood', and Trollope called it 'hobbledehoydom'. Those who behave like a hobbledehoy have been called hobbledhoyish, a reflection of their hobbledhoyism.

In Play: Why litter your speech with such short slang words as jerk or clod when you have this ripplingly long noun at your disposal: "I remember dating some hobbledehoy in high school who thought Chardonnay was a French actress!" This word trips across our tongues so pleasantly that we should use it for sheer delight of the experience: "Hey, Sis! Some gum-smacking hobbledehoy on a motorcycle says he's here to pick you up!"

Word History: No one has any idea where this word came from, but this fact never impeded a true word nerd. This word has assumed so many forms since its emergence in the 16th century that it would be difficult to track them all backwards: hobbard de hoy, hobberdy-hoy, habberdehoy, hobby de hoy, hobidehoy, ho-body hoy, or hobberdehoy. Its current shape associates it with hobble, an awkward or clumsy gait, and hoy, an awkward and clumsy person, a word that was lost somewhere in the hustle if not the bustle of the 17th century. So the most likely origin is the phrase hobble hoy, which very few people could spell correctly over time.

Dr. Goodword,

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