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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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by Whitmel M. Joyner, 2006Joseph Hooker, 1962. Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

See also: Prostitution

"Hooker," a slang word for prostitute, was used in an 1845 letter written by a student to a classmate at the University of North Carolina. This is the earliest known written usage of the word in this sense. The letter was found in the university library's Southern Historical Collection by noted UNC professor and philologist Norman E. Eliason. The date of his finding undermines the popular notion that the term came into usage in the Civil War era in "honor" of Union general Joseph Hooker's well-documented personal proclivities.


Norman E. Eliason, Tar Heel Talk: An Historical Study of the English Language in North Carolina to 1860 (1956).

Image Credit:

Joseph Hooker, 1962. Image courtesy of Library of Congress. Available from (accessed July 23, 2012).

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