HOOKER.

So I’m reading the first chapter of From The Land of Silent People, a 1942 book by the American journalist Robert St John, a remarkable man who spent fifty years as a war correspondent while remaining a lifelong pacifist and died last year at the age of 100. The scene is Belgrade, March 1941; the Yugoslav government has just signed a shameful pact with Nazi Germany and the assembled reporters are packing their bags and arguing over “where the next crisis was likely to break out,” when St. John gets information (at 2:30 AM) that army tanks are taking up positions around the city. He hops in his car and heads downtown to see what’s happening, but he and his chauffeur are stopped by soldiers “with bayonets held at belly level,” dragged out, and “marched into a small park” where they are told to sit down and shut up.

The little park was filled with a select gathering. It was nearly three o’clock… Two night club entertainers in backless dresses that swept along the ground. At least a dozen women of easy virtue, groggy from their night’s work. A few girls of semipro status in various stages of intoxication. One man in spotless evening dress with a beautiful French girl who insisted: “You can’t do this to us.”…
Just then I saw a squad of soldiers bringing in a familiar figure. Milan! Good old Milan, our favorite barman at the Srpski Kralj Hotel. Milan was one of my best sources of information. If anyone knew the answers, he did. We went off into the bushes and had a hooker or two…


Alas for salacious speculation, the sentence goes on: “…out of a bottle of slivovich Milan always carried in his hip pocket for emergencies, and then he opened up.” I was unfamiliar with that usage of “hooker,” and this was certainly a dramatic way to discover it. It’s in the Cassell Dictionary of Slang as [19C+] (US) ‘a drink, a measure of liquor,’ and it’s even in the American Heritage and Merriam-Webster’s; I don’t know how I missed it. I’m wondering if it’s still current. Any of you readers know/use it?

Comments

  1. For a relatively obscure word, “hooker” has far too many meanings. Maybe we should deprecate some of them.

  2. My God! I just learned this word myself! I’m in a psychology Master’s program, and my Stats professor is a wonderful old fellow, 80 years’ worth of sarcasm and sophistry, and a WWII veteran. He used the phrase “a hooker of gin” to mean what I would call “a slug of gin” (or similar). Since my background’s in linguistics, I had to ask him about it, but he was surprised to hear I didn’t know it.
    As far as I can recall, this is not a current usage, but an archaism. I’ve never heard anyone other than Dr. Hunter say it.

Speak Your Mind

*