Occupational surnames

Surnames that proclaim the occupation of one’s ancestors are pretty common. There are the obvious one like Smith, Miller, Baker, Tailor, etc. There are also some less obvious ones like Cooper (barrel maker), Milliner (hat maker), and Chandler (candle maker).

How about Hooker? What’s the derivation of that? It can’t be what I’m thinking.

no, hooker the prostitute name came after hooker the surname.

Etymology of this word is uncertain. But it is certain that it doesn’t derive from General Hooker of Civil War fame (he had lots of prostitutes nearby for his men).

There are citations for the word from as far back as 1845, but no one is certain of its origin. For more info: http://www.wilton.net/wordorh.htm#hooker

Hooker was also a famous drunk in an era when such behavior was considered merely “intemperate.” Some attribute his magnificent failure of decision at Chancellorsville to his promise to Lincoln that he would remain sober for the duration of the campaign, thus throwing him out of his groove. I note that simply because I too am drunk, although I am not contemplating visiting a prostitute.

Regardless of the origin of the term, it is beyond dispute that Hooker’s proclivities lent widespread use to it.

Has the trend died out? Or centuries from now, will there be a Greg Programmer, a Mary Quantity-Surveyor or a David Lying-Sanctimonious-Bastard¹?

¹ For those descended from politicians.

The trend has died out because it’s rare for multiple generations of a family to keep the same occupation. How many dopers do the same thing mom or dad did for a living?

Well, in what periods of history did this sort of thing happen (i.e. creating your last name). When did they stop doing this in England and later in America? I understand that occupational last names were common choices for freed slaves in the USA, but I’m thinking a bit farther back in history.


Bob Dole?

I hope you meant “How many *Dopers[/] …” because, otherwise we might indeed be in for a few Letitia Crackheads and/or Bubba Ray Dropacids before this crazy century is out.



Damn slow key.

To attempt to answer the OP’s original question, which was regarding the derivation of the surname Hooker, NOT the colloquiallism for prostitute:

My first guess would be that it referred to a rugmaker.

There are two methods of hooking rugs. In one, the hooker reaches a simple hook (like a sharpened J with a wooden handle) through a loosely woven base fabric mesh (like a coarse burlap) from above, pulling up through it a loop of a long ribbon of cloth. He then moves on to the next space in the mesh and pulls up through it another loop, and so on. (Hooking, as this called, is I believe a particularly American craft; at least all the old examples of it that I have seen have been early American or American folk art pieces.)

In another method (an easier, more portable method that has become one of those craft-store, craft-kit-in-a-plastic-bag type craftsy thing that allows everyone’s maiden aunt to give them tacky, useless Christmas gifts of the kitten-and-santa-claus school of art), the hooker (or rugmaker, as the modern suburban Martha-ite prefers prissily to be called) uses an articulated hook that has guard, pivoting on a pin, that lies back away from the ‘mouth’ of the hook when it is pushed through the mesh to grab the middle of a short piece of yarn, then flips down into place over the hook, locking the yarn in place and preventing the hook from catching at the mesh as the yarn is pulled through. The middle of this piece of yarn is looped around the mesh, then its ends are pulled through its looped middle, leaving the ends to form two strands of a shag-type carpet. (This has been a way-too-complicated description of a very simple process.)

In any case, both activities are known as “hooking.” I have little doubt that practitioners of this art used to be more receptive to being known as hookers than they may be today.

<A HREF=“http://www.rughookingonline.com”>(A random example)</A>

Now why didn’t that work?

Thanks for your reply lissener. I’m sure that it is the correct answer.

Turnabout, as they say, is fair play, so I’ll answer your question. If you look at the bottom of the page, you’ll find a note saying that HTML is off. That means you have to use vB codes instead. I can’t show you what they are without triggering them, but you can follow the vB code link, which is also on this page. Ironically, if you had type your url without any code, it would (should) have worked because of the automatic parsing of this message board.

How late did the tradition continue? I’m not sure, but assuming that people named Mailman are named for posties, it must have been relatively recent, at least as compared to Fishers, Carpenters, Smiths, Fletchers, Hunters, Forresters, Herders, Shepherds, etc., etc., etc.

A Cecil column with a few female-profession surnames: Did the surname “Brewster” originally mean a female brewer?

Lissener- I like your stick-to-it-iveness. You got slapped around a bit in another post, and you came back strong. :) Now, as to the word at hand, English is a fluid and alive thing, thank god. About a gazillion years ago, I worked on a commercial for Ayds Diet Control Pills. It was in....1982? 1983? In that era. Needless to say, they changed their name. I'm wiht Lissener on this one, I'd guess it was from Rug Hooking, and the language has hijacked the word for other, and more nefarious, purposes. As for the Cecil link-- If a female Brewer is a Brewster, then why is it that male or female, Teamsters are.......Teamsters?


Um…did you actually read the article?

A Hooker was also a name for a certain type of thief, back in the Renaissance (or maybe earlier). Like most professions, once enough people get in to it, people start to specialize. A hooker was someone who would grab objects out of open second-story windows with, you guessed it, a hook.

Yes, but.

A. How much sense would it make for a criminal to trumpet his specialty by taking it as a name?

    "What's all this then?"

    "Nothing officer, just minding my own business."

    "'Ere, what's your name?"

    "John Rapist. But I swear I never touched her!"


B. If this usage of hooker were what led to its use as surname, why are there no other such criminal–or even antisocial (e.g. Bob Leper, Agatha Halitosis)–surnames?

I suppose it’s entirely possible it’s a coincidence, since, like you said, there aren’t to many similarly unsavory surnames.
Having said that though, it’s also possible someone got that name against their will, maybe after being convicted of the crime. Granted, that’s not very plausible either, but stranger things have happened.