As threatened, I have begun reading David Brewer’s The Greek War of Independence, and I was taken aback on page 29 to read the following sentence: “Indeed when Skouphas tried in the early days to enlist some of the rich merchants of Moscow [in the incipient Philiki Eteria revolutionary society], they sent him packing ‘with rude and barbaric jeering’ and called him an uncouth oik.” Oik?! The American Heritage Dictionary was no help, but the OED came through:
oick, oik (OIk). slang. [Etym. obscure.] Depreciatory schoolboy word for a member of another school; an unpopular or disliked fellow-pupil. Also gen., an obnoxious or unpleasant person; in weakened senses, a ‘nit-wit’, a ‘clot’. Hence ‘oikish a., unpleasant, crude; ‘oickman (see quot. 1925).
1925 Dict. Bootham Slang, Hoick,.. spit. Oick,.. to spit; abbreviated form of ‘oickman’. Oickman,..labourer, shopkeeper, etc.; also a disparaging term. 1933 A. G. Macdonell England, their England vi. 95 Those privately educated oicks are a pretty grisly set of oicks. Grocers’ sons and oicks and what not. 1935 ‘N. Blake’ Question of Proof x. 189 Smithers is such an oick. 1940 M. Marples Public School Slang 31 Oik, hoik: very widely used and of some age; at Cheltenham (1897) it meant simply a working man, but at Christ’s Hospital (1885) it implied someone who spoke Cockney, and at Bootham (1925) someone who spoke with a Yorkshire accent. 1940 M. Dickens Mariana iv. 109 The old Oik mentioned it over a couple of whiskeys. 1946 G. Hackforth-Jones Sixteen Bells 260 Come to think of it he must have been a bit of an oik when he worked at Bullingham & Messer. That crack about long hair was well merited. 1957 F. King Widow i. v. 63 He and Cooper had fought a battle with three ‘oiks’—this was apparently school slang for the boys of the town. 1958 B. Goolden Ships of Youth vii. 162, I only need my cap on back to front to look the complete oick. 1959 W. Camp Ruling Passion xvi. 126 Who’s that incredibly uncouth and oikish man? 1966 ‘K. Nicholson’ Hook, Line & Sinker viii. 95 So glad you got here before the oicks. 1968 Melody Maker 30 Nov. 24/5 Old Stinks from the third stream said: ‘I say you oik, the Beach Boys latest is fab gear.’ 1975 Listener 16 Jan. 83/1 The rigmarole about the flat was patent set-dressing, just to impress us oiks. 1975 Times 7 Aug. 7/7 His [sc. Oswald Mosley’s] angels, a gang of gullible and bloodthirsty oiks.. would come pretty far down the roster of hell’s legions.
An interesting word, but I’m dubious about the likelihood of its having been used as an insult by the merchants of Moscow 200 years ago. And doesn’t the alleged 1968 quote ‘I say you oik, the Beach Boys latest is fab gear’ involve an unlikely mixture of generational slangs?