hawk » hock

Classification: English – cot/caught merger

Spotted in the wild:

  • I wonder if they’ve changed the time of year of the sale — I certainly don’t recall that the little lasses had to freeze themselves for their cause, hocking cookies outside of supermarkets in the middle of the *winter*. (soc.motss, Jan 19, 1999)
  • Most of these courses are simply recruiting grounds for the various academic departments — storefront windows where they hock their wares to wide-eyed freshmen and sophomores, trying desperately to convince them that what they have to offer is more valuable and useful than what’s being sold next door. (Univ. of Michigan Review, Mar 31, 1999)
  • He usually heads out to his “home base” in the U-district, although he occasionally goes up to Capitol Hill to hock his wares on Broadway. (Univ. of Washington Daily, Nov 29, 1999)
  • He’s hocking some video tape on his website. (rec.aviation.piloting, Aug 9, 2000)
  • Even the street venders have relocated to Flushing, Queens to hock their wares. (NYU Portfolio, May 12, 2003)

Like wrought » rot and naught » not, this is an eggcorn that works best for those with the cot/caught merger.

Hawk ‘to offer for sale (by calling out in the street)’ and hock ‘to pawn’, though not etymologically related, are semantically close enough to make this a relatively common eggcorn.

Note also that hawk in the sense of ‘cough up phlegm’ (as in hawk a loogie) often appears in the form of hock (see David Wilton’s Wordorigins).

| link | entered by Ben Zimmer, 2005/04/21 |


  1. 1

    Commentary by Saundra , 2005/05/22 at 4:37 pm

    While working on a book, I ended up spending the better part of a half an hour trying to decide whether one would hock a loogie or hawk one. It seemed to me that the verb in quest was probably just an onomontopaeic invented word, so I picked the best phonetic spelling and moved on. Turns out, I picked wrong!

  2. 2

    Commentary by Tom Neely , 2006/09/01 at 5:07 pm

    Boys in the upper Midwest (Cleveland, Ohio and Ann Arbor, Michigan) in the 1960s used the noun HOCKER (not HAWKER) for what you call a LOOGIE (obviously related to your verb HAWK). The pronunciation was HAHKER. These same boys used the verb HOCK backward. It meant STEAL. Stephen King writes dialogue in The Body (1982), with 1960s boys in Maine saying HAWK to mean STEAL.

  3. 3

    Commentary by Mo , 2006/09/12 at 8:27 am

    HOOK is oldish English slang for STEAL — maybe that’s where their HAWK descends from.

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