Why are Sadie Hawkins dances now called, 'tolos'?

It was great to read the derivation of ‘Sadie Hawkins’ dance:


I’m trying to figure out why these dances are now called, ‘tolos’?

What city/State/Country are you? This might help. When did you first hear the term? Are you sure of the spelling?

I never heard of it, either, but then I don’t get out of the house much…




So, I asked over at the American Dialect Society Mailing List.

Damn! There’s some smart people over there too.

David D. Robertson, a scholar from the Dept. of Linguistics, Univ. of Victoria, BC replied. He is working a a book/article about Chinook Jargon.


So it’s another “Seattle Thing”? That’s what we need, is another “Seattle Thing”…


Well, that IS interesting. Thanks for the info, Samclem! I am indeed from Seattle, where girl-ask-guy dances are called tolos. I am familiar with Tolo Pass, of Lewis and Clark fame, but that is further east, in Idaho. That is in an Athabascan language, though.

You don’t like Seattle Things? You would prefer an LA Thing or an NYC Thing? I Thing Not!

No, no, no, NYC and LA are meaningless, I tell you, meaningless. Out here in the Rest Of The World we look forward to the Next Big Seattle Thing, why, it’s the high point of our existence. We ask ourselves, “Grunge rock, Starbucks, what will they think of next?”


BTW, welcome to the Boards! :slight_smile: You’re gonna fit right in, I can tell…

Having recently moved to Western Washington, I’ve wondered about Tolos as well. I was afraid Sadie Hawkins had somehow become “incorrect”, but I like the Chinook etymology, if true.

All in all, I’m glad to be from someplace that has “things”

A further word on the word “tolo.”

While it is still likely that it is a chinook jargon word going back before 1900, there appeared around the first or second decade of the 20th century at the University of Washington a “tolo club” which seems to be something that morphed into a kind of mortarboard society.

What is not known is whether the “tolo club” took it’s name from Chinook jargon. It seems the most likely route.

poor health, after a sex scandal, eh?

It was a liberal curse. In his dotage, Al Capp was a right wing apologist. So they say…

Well… depends on where you stand, R M. Capp himself claimed that he always stood up for the under-dog against the bully. That made him a liberal in the 50s, when his political satire favored civil rights, for instance. In the 60s, however, he viewed the anti-war protesters as the “bully” and he clearly favored the police. He wasn’t pro-war so much as anti-protesters.

He claimed that made him a liberal, and consistent all his life. Of course, since the liberal establishment of the time supported the protesters and viewed the police as the “bully”, he got labeled as a right-wing sympathizer.

I suspect that any artist is too complex to fit into a simple labelling system.

Thanks a lot for your question. I went to a high school in which about one-third of the students were Quinault natives, on the Washington coast. We had a yearly Tolo dance, sponsered by the Girls club. I think everyone assumed ‘tolo’ was a native word, but no one I knew could tell for sure. At the time, there were probably no more than 50 people who could speak the Quinault Salish dialect on the reservation, and I doubt anyone knew Chinook. I expect the numbers are even lower now.

I just love how this board teaches me things I didn’t think to ask about myself, but which it turns out I desperately needed to know.

Capp’s defense is a little disingenuous. Who doesn’t support the under-dog against the bully? His strip clearly changed it’s tone from silly hillbilly to right-wing political satire in the 60s and 70s. He could have had right-wing sympathies all along. During the anti-communist witch-hunt of the 50s, Pogo took on Joe McCarthy, but Lil Abner was strangely silent. Capp turned into an angry crank at the end, venting his spleen at young people, particularily musicians (Joan Baez, John Lennon)

No, in his earlier days he was pretty plainly anti-Capitalist.

Well, I don’t think many people around here supported Sadam Hussein against the U.S. …? In fact, I think the U.S. tendency to support the under-dog leads us to some very awkward situations – there are times when the under-dog is, in fact, nasty and needs a good solid kick inna pants, rather than sympathy.

But, as John K mentions, Capp’s 1950s strips were very nasty about big business (personified as General Bullmoose). He was generally viewed as a liberal, until the late 60s.

As I say, I think that he was way too complex to be classified by a one-word label.

Walt Kelly (cited above) certainly was always considered a liberal, but he too took some pot-shots at the hippie movement. Kelly, like Capp, was a humorist, and took aim at whatever came into his sights. Kelly himself said that he was against all extremists – the extreme right, the extreme left, and the extreme middle.

That’s what I found interesting about that statement. Almost everyone would agree with it (Bully=Bad right?) until you start putting labels on who is who. Political views are defined by the perception of the bully. If that changes, so have your politics.

Ergo you can’t claim your views have remained unchanged because you still support the underdog (if you’ve done a 180 on the underdog).

We’ve now got way far afield. A discussion of whether “everyone supports the under-dog against the bully” belongs in Great Debates. Comments on Al Capp seemed relevant (although somewhat tangential) to the topic of Sadie Hawkins, but we’re now way far off topic.

If you’d like to discuss this further, monterey, please start a new thread in Great Debates.

I was just responding to your original comment, and Capp’s specious statement. But you’re right about being off-topic, so I offer the following Tolo Info:

Echoes of Jargon are still caught from time to time in Northwest speech. Longtime residents call the bay “saltchuck”, or sea water. “Skookum” (strong) appears in the complaint, “My old pickup isn’t skookum enough to take that hill.” Kaleetan (arrow), Illahee (homeland) and tiny Hiyu (great big) are three of several Washington ferries with Jargon names. Alaskans call newcomers “cheechakos,” from the Jargon for new and come. A few Jargon words have even gone continental. Hooch (bad liquor) is short for “hootchanoo,” and “tolo,” the girls-ask-boys high school dance, means “to take control.”
-Robert Henderson
-Klahowya, Sikhs! 500 Words Unite the Pacific Northwest

I’m sorry I mentioned it. I was hoping to start some discussion about the sex scandal instead. My memory fails me on that account.