Glossary of Hobo Terms

In case you happen to be writing something involving 1920’s hobos, or just have an interest in such colloquial marginalia. Or in case you wanna bring back the terms doughnut philosopher, mushfaker, shatting on the uppers or Hotel de Gink (which must start trending on Yelp now!). Also, this added a new level to Isaac Hayes’ character in Escape From New York, with the whole “Duke of New York, A Number One” thing: “A-No-1 – A famous tramp who writes his name “on everything like J. B. King.” He writes books about his alleged adventures. Many young hobos write this monicker on water tanks, and chalk it on box cars.”


(from Nels Anderson’s The Milk and Honey Route)

This list of words and phrases is in no sense complete. Nor is it solely hobo slang. Many terms began in Hobohemia and were taken up in time by other groups. Other terms are found among both hobo and other groups, but in each case with a different meaning. Indeed, you will find a hobo term with one meaning on the Pacific and another on the Atlantic Seaboard, and still another in the Southland. In this book I have made no strained effort to use much of this freightyard folklore. This is opposite to the practice of many contemporary hobo writers. They think by the use of slang to add a bona fide touch to the fiction they weave. I am including this glossary largely for the information of those of you who may be interested, and…

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