Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hoot n.2

[? fig. use of SE hoot, an abrupt, sharp cry]

1. (orig. US, also two hoots) a very small amount; anything or anyone considered unimportant, insignificant.

[US]J.H. Beadle Western Wilds 611: I got onto my reaper and banged down every hoot of it [wheat] before Monday night.
[US]Coshocton Trib. (OH) 23 Jan. 2/3: My neighbor Johnson plays the flute [...] He cannot play it worth a hoot.
[Aus]Franklin & Cusack Pioneers on Parade 218: The only thing that matters a hoot [...] is what you and Lucy think about it.
[US]T. Capote ‘House Of Flowers’ Breakfast at Tiffany’s 154: Well, I can’t sleep a hoot.
[US]G. & K. Swarthout Whichaway (1967) 16: We sure haven’t done a hoot to be proud of.
[UK]C. Dexter Service of all the Dead (1980) 68: He told himself that it didn’t matter two hoots whether the Rawlinson woman was there or not.
[US] in Walking After Midnight (1989) 157: I don’t think in the long run it will make a hoot of difference.

2. (US) a euph. for hell.

[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 10: He didn’t know what in hoot he wanted to say.

In phrases

give a hoot (v.) (also ...two hoots, ...a hoot in hell, care a hoot, ...two hoots)

to care; usu. in negative use, e.g. who gives a hoot?

[US]H. Bragg Tekel 30: He did not care a hoot for anybody’s opinions but his own.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 270: I don’t care a hoot what the Captain says, either.
[US]Caldwell Watchman (Columbia, LA) 3 Oct. 3/2: Not that you would be worth a hoot in hell to them.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 24 Mar. 10/1: The columns of expert dope from high-priced critics isn’t worth two hoots.
[US]Eve. Public Ledger (Phila., PA) 13 Nov. 11/2: Greig being dead does not care a hell’s hoot what we say.
[US]K. Brush Young Man of Manhattan 232: Who gave a hoot what he looked like?
[US]Abderdeen Jrnl 17 Nov. 2/4: I don’t give too hoots about Nationalism and all the flim-flam of the exotic Natonalist.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 147: Not that the Protector cared a hoot whom Constance married.
[US]D. Dodge Bullets For The Bridegroom (1953) 35: Why would a stranger give a hoot because somebody came across the street in his direction?
[UK]Wodehouse Mating Season 135: Did Nature care? Not a hoot.
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 39: Who’s going to care two hoots how we live?
[Aus]J. Cleary Sundowners 217: A kid [...] hanging on to it’s mother’s tit, not caring a hoot about how the rest of the world was going.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 294: All that means anything to you is playing the big shot. You don’t give a hoot in hell for anybody but yourself.
[US]Mad mag. Mar. 31: Floodnick, you nogoodnick ... I know you’re in ca-hoots with the owl-hoots and don’t give two hoots.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 268: There were less than a half-dozen Angels who gave a hoot in hell what was happening on the Berkeley campus.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 147: Don’t be ridiculous. No one really gives a hoot.
[UK]T. Jones Curse of the Vampire Socks 15: Will people give two hoots [...] when they / Are in their birthday suits?
[UK]Guardian Rev. 1 Jan. 18: If nobody there gives two hoots, why should we care at all.
[Aus]P. Papathanasiou Stoning 46: ‘[T]hey don’t give a hoot what they do to the place’.