Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hook n.1

1. in senses of the shape of a hook.

(a) a finger; usu. in pl., thus a hand.

[[UK]R. Brome Jovial Crew IV ii: To escape the jaws of the Justice, the Clutch of the Constable, the Hooks of the Headborough, and the biting blows of the Beadle].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK] ‘Pickpocket’s Chaunt’ (trans. of ‘En roulant de vergne en vergne’) in Vidocq IV 261: To his clies my hooks I throw in, [...] And collar his dragons clear away.
[UK] ‘Nights At Sea’ Bentley’s Misc. Apr. 596: He claps his thieving-hooks upon my shoulders in going aloft, and shoves me under.
[US](con. 1843) Melville White-Jacket (1990) 324: ‘But how did you feel, Jack, when the musket-ball carried away one of your hooks there?’ ‘Feel! only a finger the lighter. I have seven more left, besides thumbs.’.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 259: I one day asked a man if the hard work of prison did not spoil his hands for delicate manipulations. Oh, bless you, no! he replied; In a week or two a man can bring his hooks and feelers into full working trim again and no mistake.
[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 111: The ‘lady’ is always provided with a dress having long and wide sleeves, within which she can move her hand and ‘hooks’ (fingers) easily.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 25 Oct. 1/4: ‘Don’t you love me, Maud?’ he whispered, / As they spooned in our Domain, / As her hooks went through his pockets / Soft she sighed, then hugged again.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 28: Possessing a pair of hooks that were lithe and sensitive.
[UK]Sporting Times 4 Feb. 1/4: She held his poor inert right salaray-hook in hers, her anguish chastened by the sooty financial outlook.
[US]B.T. Harvey ‘Word-List From The Northwest’ in DN IV:i 27: hooks, n. A man’s hands and arms.
[US]Colton & Randolph Rain II 146: What did the Governor know or care about me until you went and hauled your hooks into me?
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 68: He almost makes you believe that he has your own interest at heart when he sinks his hooks into you.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 179: Isn’t she going to wonder how I come to have my hooks on the thing?
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 115: I flinched at each crash of his huge ‘hooks’.
[US]L. Rosten Dear ‘Herm’ 151: I think she is trying to throw her hooks into Daddy!

(b) (orig. Aus.) a spur; usu. in pl.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Nov. 6/4: ‘Lend us yer hooks, Joe, and that whip.’ He put on a pair of long-necked spurs, and, remounting, flogged and raked her till she gave in, and would buck no more.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Feb. 14/3: One Yeaster, a new-chum bobby got on’nim outside the lock’kup, an’, flash-like, he ripped th’ooks in; then there wizz circus.
[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 466: Hooks. Spurs.

(c) (US prison) a straight razor used as a weapon.

[US]H. Simon ‘Prison Dict.’ in AS VIII:3 (1933) 28/1: HOOK. Razor, as in Man, Ah’d like to catch dat screw outside some day when Ah had mah hook right handy!
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 121: hook [...] a knife.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 100/2: Hook, n. [...] 4. (Central and mid-Western States) A straight razor.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 803: hook – A razor.

(d) (US) a jack or seven in poker [i.e. the shape of ‘J’ or ‘7’].

[US]G.S. Coffin Winning Poker 179: Hook — Any jack or any seven, so called because the J or 7 is hook-shaped [HDAS].
[US]F. Wallace Poker 217: Hook — A jack.

(e) (US campus) the grade C; thus hook and a half, the grade C+.

[US]Current Sl. (1967) I:4.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 55: hook ‘grade of C’.
[US]W. Safire What’s The Good Word? 300: Gut courses — where ‘gut gunners’ get an ‘easy Ace’ (A) as opposed to a ‘Hook’ (C) or ‘Flag’ (F).
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 37: Flag for ‘the grade F’ relies on the shape of the letter as well, but Hook for ‘the grade C’ refers only to the shape and is not an expanded acronym.

(f) (US black) a derog. term for a Jew [the popular stereotype of hook-nosed Semites].

[[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 100/2: Hook, n. [...] 6. A long-nosed person].
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 61: There are a number of vernacular terms that characterize apparent Jews as hook, hookface, hooknose.

(g) (US Und.) a key.

[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 47: We still need some of your hooks, mainly for the Warden’s deck, and for his car.

(h) (US gang) a weakling, a conformist, esp. a non-gang member [? the stereotypically studious Jew is seen as unlikely to join a gang; note WWI milit. hook, a shirker].

[US]K. Scott Monster (1994) 100: I just couldn’t imagine living the life of a ‘hook,’ those seemingly spineless nerds who were always victims of someone’s ridicule or physical violence.
[US]Bynum & Thompson Juvenile Delinquency 290: Trick, hook. Phoney sissy.

2. in senses of lit. ‘hooking’ or grasping.

(a) (also breech hook) the pickpocket who actually steals the wallet, money etc rather than his various accomplices; thus lady hook, a female pickpocket.

[[UK]G. Walker Detection of Vyle and Detestable Use of Dice Play 15: As soon as ye begun your declaration of the first acquaintance in Paul’s, I felt aforehand the hooks were laid to pick your purse withal].
[UK]Once a Week IX 555/1: The party who picks the pocket while the ‘stiff-dropper’ is attracting the victim’s attention is called ‘the hook’ .
[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 106: Hooks — These individuals, who are also known as ‘gunns’ and ‘buzzers,’ in prison slang, constitute the pickpocket class in its various specialities. [Ibid.] 111: The ‘man of the world’ [...] is generally in Co. with a ‘lady hook,’ or a ‘pal’ of his own sex.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 5 May 5/6: Lizzie Footer, who was one of Mrs Asprey’s gang of hooks, peter-pullers and shop-lifters.
[UK]A. Morrison Child of the Jago (1982) 95: ‘What are they?’ ‘’Igh mob. ’Ooks. Toffs.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Apr. 32/1: By Ginger Orr the deed was done; / As Darby pitched his lay, / He slapped him on the chest in fun / And whipped his watch away. / He’d steal as well, would Ginger Orr, / As any city hook; / He’d nick your whiskers, proudly swore / Naringaningalook.
Buffalo Courier (NY) 8 Sept. 67/1: Every well-known ‘hook’ has his own [...] characteristic mode of work’.
[UK]W. Muir Observations of Orderly 228: The socks [...] might have vanished in the night – in which case there had been ‘hooks about’ (pilferers about).
[Aus]V. Marshall World of Living Dead (1969) 129: The ‘hook’, or , as you would say, the pick-pocket.
[UK]N. Lucas London and its Criminals 246: The ‘hook’ is the ‘whizzer’ who actually picks the pocket – he then passes his haul to a confederate.
[US](con. 1910s) D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 41: I have no use for pickpockets. ‘Breech hooks,’ or ‘hooks’ as they usually are called.
[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/7: The pick-pocket is more commonly known as a ‘Dip’ or ‘Hook’ and stands at the head of the petty thieving class.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 28: A hook (pickpocket who takes the money from the pocket of the victim) [...] had a national reputation for being the most arrogant, irritable, cheap, and contemptible of all cannons in social life.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 190: If you want to catch a bunch of hooks, you’ll find them at —.
[UK]S. Jackson An Indiscreet Guide to Soho 118: The ‘hook’ is the chap who actually picks your pocket.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 246: Max is [...] ‘a left-breech hook.’ That’s a man who can draw a score out of a left pants pocket.
[US]Q. Reynolds Police Headquarters (1956) 235: The skilful hand of the hook has opened the victim’s bag and removed anything of value from it.
[US]L. Block ‘Badger Game’ in One Night Stands (2008) 23: Baron picked out the hook easily, and watched him work, dipping easily into a mark’s back pocket and passing the wallet to one of the other members of the mob.

(b) (Aus./US) a thief.

[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 25: Bit of a ’ook, too, ’e was.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 45: ‘hook’ means a thief.
[US]St Louis Post-Despatch (MO) 16 Jan. 25/1: Why, you cheap hook (thief), I’ve a good mind to telephone for those hick flatties and turn you in.
[US]E. Booth Stealing Through Life 192: Being a hook, you can’t stand an investigation.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 15: Thieves in general are known as ‘Hooks’ or ‘Tea Leaves’.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 82: You’re a jack roller [...] You’re a strong-arm bandit. You’re a hook.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 10: Of all the highly specialised hooks [...] the Creep, to my mind, is the weirdest.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 648/1: hook – crook.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 29: I shouldn’t go too much on faces, Mrs Spencer, half the hooks in London look like bleeding cherubs.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 194: hook crook.

(c) an arrest.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 100/2: Hook, n. [...] 3. An arrest a criminal charge.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 234: Wen-gel [...] is on a big hook.

(d) (Irish) a confidence trickster, a cheat.

[[UK]Dekker Gul’s Horne-Booke 36: Let any hooke draw you either to a Fencers supper, or to a Players that acts such a part for a wager].
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 176: The easy money [...] went into the pockets of Soho’s army of ‘hooks, crooks and larakins’.
[Ire]B. MacMahon Honey Spike n.p.: He [...] was searching the empty envelope. ‘Damn-all else here,’ he said. Reading from the back of the demand note: ‘This tinker is a hook’ [BS].
[Ire]H. Leonard Out After Dark 6: Those who had done business with him called him a chancer or, less charitably, a hook.

(e) (US black/Und.) a piece of cheap jewellery.

[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl.

(f) (Aus.) a prison.

[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 31: Hook Prison.

(g) (US black/Und.) the police.

[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Hook Down: A warning that the officer is coming.

(h) see hooker n.1

3. in fig. senses, that which ‘hooks’.

(a) in fig. use, one’s skill, one’s ability.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Mar. 17/2: I fancy blood and fire will suit my hook well, / I’ve only joined the Army of the Lord – / Who send me to belt Satan out of Crookwell!

(b) a catch, a drawback.

[US] in Century Dict.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Cop This Lot 105: Look out, matey. Here come the hooks.

(c) a gimmick or angle.

[UK]Daily News 2 Jan. 5/1: We often have a perfectly visible hook offered to us, in a young lady, a speculation or what not .
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 9 Sept. in Proud Highway (1997) 396: It may be the hook for pre-selling a book on my movements in LatAm.
[US]Atlantic Monthly July 53: Her very first assignment is how to write a ‘hook’, meaning an arresting opening sentence.
[US]C. White Life and Times of Little Richard 68: All of a sudden there was ‘Have some fun tonight.’ That was the hook.

(d) an imposture.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues III 341/1: Hook, A catch; an advantage; an imposture.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 14: Con Games which are run on new inmates to fool or exploit them for money or other items. (Archaic: hook, duke in, short con).

(e) (Aus.) a certainty.

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 19 June 3/4: After his recent wins Little Tartar was considered a ‘hook’ for the big events.

(f) (US) an influential patron or contact; political influence.

[US]J. Wilstach Under Cover Man 112: Every hook knew he had to trust some one.
[US]P. Maas Serpico 252: The man had a ‘hook’ — an influential contact in the department.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 71: I have a heavy hook in the place.
[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z 50/1: You’ve got to have a hook to survive in the hood.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] McGivern is Malone’s ‘hook’—his mentor, protector, sponsor.

(g) (US) any form of influence, e.g. blackmail.

[US]R. Chandler Lady in the Lake (1952) 22: You think we might try to get a hook into you because you crossed a state line with her, forget it.
[US]J.D. MacDonald Price of Murder (1978) 178: Whoever they had on the hook, it wasn’t information that would just maybe bust up a marriage.
[US]R. Chandler Playback 195: He had a hook of some sort into her.

4. (US campus) the telephone [telephonic imagery: one ‘hangs it up’; early models had a hook on which the receiver was hung].

[US] ‘Whitman College Sl.’ in AS XVIII:2 Apr. 154/2: on the hook. This phrase is shouted in a loud voice, indicating that a telephone call is waiting for the shoutee.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 61: You are wanted on the hook.
[US](con. 1970) J.M. Del Vecchio 13th Valley (1983) 231: Brown was on the hook to the artillery on the firebase.

In compounds

hooknose (Jew) (n.)

see separate entry .

In phrases

do the hook (v.)

(US Und.) to serve a life sentence.

[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 578: Finally, he devises many new verbs and verb-phrases or provides old ones with new meanings, e.g., [...] to bump off, to hijack, to do the hook.
get one’s hooks on (v.) (also get one’s hooks in(to))

to grasp, to grab, to obtain, esp. when the object is most desired or currently held by a rival.

[US]Current Advertising 2-8 707/2: The medical profession is the hardest one in the world to get your hooks into.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 195: There’s a tray of ’em [...] all got their hooks on me.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 136: If we get our hooks on what I’m after, [...] we’ll wipe that gang off th’ earth.
[US]J. London Valley of the Moon (1914) 487: But first we’ll get our hooks into the place.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 218: I’d hate to leave a poor little defenceless piece of property lying around where he could get his hooks on it!
[US]N. Algren ‘So Help Me’ from Story mag. in Texas Stories (1995) 21: I got my hooks in him then and set him down hard.
[UK]P. Cheyney Dames Don’t Care (1960) 60: He is lyin’ to pinch Henrietta just as soon as he can get his hooks on her.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 175: She’s got her hooks into a rich man’s pup.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 82: She’d got her hooks into Jeff all right.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 19: If the D.A. gets his hooks into you just once, you’ll have a ring through your nose.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 44: [He tries] to get his hooks on any stray cash that’s floating around.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 28: Wait till Helen got her hooks into him. She’d milk the guy dry in four days, a week for sure.
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 7: Let some man of ill will get his hooks on that book, and what’ll be the upshot?
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell Plays Solomon (1976) 61: That’s what he wanted, to get his hooks into me.
A. Gurnah Pilgrims Way 153: She’s got her hooks into you, young man. I bet she keeps her legs crossed until you pop the question.
[US]J. Ridley Love Is a Racket 327: ‘How long before we bleed him?’ ‘Get your hooks in good and deep. Wait till they touch bone.’.
[UK]Guardian G2 23 Aug. 8: Get your hooks into the Duke of Clarence, not fall on every sodding sword in sight.
[US]B.D. Gardner A Year of Samantha 190: Francesca was a gold digger and got her hooks into him and soon had him at the altar.
off the hook (also off the heezie, ...hizzy)

1. (US black/teen) used of something so good as to transcend description.

[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 20: Off the hook: Happening; incredibly cool and hip.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 8: off the hizzy – phenomenal, awesome: ‘The Clefhangers concert was off the hizzy’.
[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) 186: Oh yeah [...] This shit’s off the hook! We got tootonium here. I left a bump for you.
[US]Reveal & Doc Brown ‘What You Need’ [lyrics] It’s that boom thing. Check that [i.e. a CD] – it’s off the hook.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 81: Yo, your kite was right!! Chic, ya off the hook, and on some real shit. ‘Guide to London Slang 10 Jan. [Internet] Off the hook – exceeding one’s expectations.

2. (US) completely unacceptable, crazy, out of control.

Online Sl. Dict. [Internet] off the hook adj [...] 2. wild or crazy, (‘I had to leave that party. It was off da hook!’) 3. extremely upset. (‘Yo, since you told all her business, she’s been acting off da hook.’).
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 5: off the heezie – continuously: ‘Your phone’s been ringing off the heezie, man’.
[US]Simon & Burns ‘The Pager’ Wire ser. 1 ep. 5 [TV script] Girl was off the hook. One time she threatened to write a letter on him.
[UK]Guardian G2 20 Sept. 16: Natasha Brown sings about sex [her] recent single Bedroom Bully is equally salacious. ‘Oh God, that one is very off the hook. That’s about sex and ... whatever,’ she giggles.
[US]Prison Slang Mommyblogger 26 Sept. [Internet] So your little jitterbug [...] thinks its funny to split your wig. Thats off the hook, but you can handle it.

3. see also SE phrs. below.

on one’s own hook (also upon one’s own hook, one one’s own hookstops)

1. (also on one’s own pock-nook) looking after oneself, taking responsibility for one’s own life, on one’s own initiative or volition; the var. is Scot.

[US]Boston Gazette 23 Nov. n.p.: Rodgers himself says that he went upon his own hook.
[UK]Sir A. Wylie Works iii 61: I came in on my own pock-nook; as we say in Scotland when a man lives on his own means [F&H].
[US]D. Crockett Exploits and Adventures (1934) 137: Now I start anew upon my own hook.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. V 20: He saw no reason for not taking it upon ‘his own hook’.
[US]‘Philip Paxton’ A Stray Yankee in Texas 152: Off we started, every man on his own hook.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Good for Nothing (1890) 212: I worked on my own hook, after that, and I rather think I paid my expenses.
[US]W.H. Brewer Rocky Mountain Letters 43: He built a theater and hired a band of nigger minstrels on his own hook.
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple I 217: Loose [...] in London — on your own hook and free to wander.
[UK]R. Rowe Picked Up in the Streets 49: Many mere ‘chits of children,’ girls as well as boys, each on his or her ‘own hook,’ without any home but such a crowded den as this.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 31 Jan. 8: [pic. caption] A Clerical Blackleg [...] Indulges in a Little Kissing on his own Hook — Shameless Familiarity.
[UK]St James’s Gaz. 20 Feb. 6/2: The cross-fanner [...] works alone, or, as he prefers to phrase it, on his own hookstops.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 373: He was out on his own hook, and it’s my belief that he’ll be took this time if he isn’t very careful.
[UK]J. Astley Fifty Years (2nd edn) II 156: He [...] subsequently went over [to New York] on his own hook.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 12 May 5/7: He worked his lurks on his own hook, except in regard to ‘magging’.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 15: The match girls who, to use a vulgar expression, are on their own hook – that is to say, have detached themselves from their families.
[US]‘Frederick Benton Williams’ (H.E. Hamblen) On Many Seas 266: George didn't go there to hire out as a labourer; he went as a prospector to go up country on his own hook and get rubber.
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 84: HOOK, ON HIS OWN: playing your own hand, working or fighting your own hand, for which hook is slang syn.
[UK]G.M. Hewett Rat 57: I had always been my mother’s favourite child [...] it meant extra washings and less chance of going away on my own hook.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 18 Sept. 6/2: Say, they’d started up a couple of conversations on their own hook [...] soft-pedal dialogues.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL:2 105: Fancy a bike scampering about like this on it’s own hook!
[US]D. Hammett ‘Assistant Murderer’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 160: If she went ahead on her own hook [...] I’d blow up the whole racket.
[US]C.R. Shaw Jack-Roller 56: I felt that I could get along some way on my own hook.
[US]Kerouac letter 28 June in Charters I (1995) 201: A woman like my mother [...] suddenly learns, on her own hook, that she prefers going back to the shoe-factory.
[US]E. Dundy Dud Avocado (1960) 222: It had taken me just exactly one year on my own hook to get myself in a really serious mess.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 3 May in Proud Highway (1997) 514: I am lazy and unproductive enough on my own hook, without the help of a weed.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 114: This kid Carlito is here on his own hook — nobody brought him here.
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 251: He didn’t come forward on his own hook, either.

2. (US) of an achievement or action, done with no help from anyone else, on one’s own.

[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 7 Sept. 12/3: ‘Shan’t be able to start a pub on my own hook and marry Sally out of what I get from the nobs’.
[US]S. Ford Torchy 262: I butts in and takes a chance on passin’ it along to you on my own hook.
[US]Mad mag. Jan.–Feb. 14: Anybody who got out of sixth grade on his own hook.
pay with a hook (v.)

(Aus.) to steal.

[UK]Stephens My Chinese Cook n.p.: You bought them? Ah, I fear me John, You paid them with a hook [F&H].
put the hooks in(to) (v.) (also run the hooks into)

1. (US) to take advantage of.

[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 14: ‘I been maced round here an’ dubbed round here an’ had de hooks t’run into me round here till I’m daffy!’.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 148: We got to get him now, Rose [...] It’s time to put the hooks in.
[US]I. Shulman Cry Tough! 77: You sure put the hooks into me. What the hell’s the matter with you?

2. to entrap, lit. or fig.

[US]T. Dorsey Atomic Lobster 111: The kitchen had already put the hooks in Martha.
sling one’s hook (v.) [SE sling + sense 1 above]

1. to pick pockets.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 68/2: One reaching the bottom, I began to ‘sling my hook,’ and had just got the ‘poke’ away from the ‘kick,’ when the ‘moll’ dropped her ‘juke’ suddenly on mine and the ‘skin’ in it.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 115: ‘7 years for slinging my hook.’ [...] ‘Slinging his hook’ is the professional term for picking pockets.

2. see also separate entry .

toss the hooks (v.)

(US) to box.

[US]N.Y. Eve. Journal 7 Feb. n.p.: Long ago, when the boys used to get out on the turf and toss the hooks, they were strong for the brush all over the face.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

get the hook (v.) [the long pole or hook used to drag unpopular performers off stage; introduced in 1903 at Harry Minor’s Bowery Theatre, New York City] (US)

1. to be ejected; thus give the hook, to eject.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 39: The O’Brien — Fitz go got the hooks. {Ed. The fight was prevented by the mayor of New York.}.
[UK]Wodehouse Psmith Journalist (1993) 241: You gave him the hook, I guess?
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.

2. in fig. use, to take second place; to suffer a rejection.

[US]H. Blossom Checkers 89: You’d be far from ‘getting the hooks,’ as you call it, with Sadie Martin for a wife.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 29: It was a case of ’twixt love and duty and love won out. Duty always does get the hook.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 376: Come off with that small-time humor. It even gets the hook in burlycue.
give someone the hook (v.) (US)

1. to imprison.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 13: Have you anything to say for yourself before I give you the hook?

2. to betray, to double-cross.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 39: Baby Jack [...] testifying that he had been given the hook by the prosecution. [...] In return for his confessing he had been promised immunity and that now they were renigging on him.

3. to punish, to treat unkindly.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 41: I am confident that that intelligent body will give Mutt the hook.
let someone off the hook (v.) [off the hook ]

to excuse (someone) from punishment.

[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 45: Fly’s taking a cure whether he likes it or not and it’ll kill him for letting you off the hook.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 94: The question is will he let us off the hook?
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 94: I went to Cal State for a year, to placate them, but I hated it. Their death let me off the hook.
[UK]H.R.F. Keating Soft Detective 72: Don’t let him off the hook just on his own say-so.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 314: I go and do the Christian thing – which is to let the man off the hook.
off the hook

1. out of trouble, freed of a difficult situation; cit. 1864 in OED is fig. use of SE.

[[UK]Trollope Small House at Allington II 296: ‘Poor Caudle!’ he said to himself; ‘he’s hooked, and he’ll never get himself off the hook again.’ ].
[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 111: Maybe that Federal judgeship will come through soon enough to take me off the hook.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 186: This took me off the hook and saved my face.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 59: Let some tough bastard . . . off the hook.
[UK]T. Paulin ‘From ‘Landsflykt’ in Fivemiletown 45: I’m letting you off the hook, Albion, / not for your own sake, never, / but because out of your steam presses / shot Dickens, Darwin, Spencer and Mill!
[US]C. Hiaasen Native Tongue 51: You did some nice writing on this piece, Joe. Got us all off the hook.
[US]E. Weiner Drop Dead, My Lovely (2005) 215: You’ll not only get my boss off the hook, you’ll save yourself major grief.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 166: The sooner we have something concrete, the sooner you’re off the hook.

2. see also sl. phrs. above.

off the hook(s)

1. ill-tempered, peevish; ‘in a state’.

[UK]R. Davenport New Tricke to Cheat the Divell I ii: gef.: What Roger, al amort, me thinkes th’art off o’th’ hookes? rog.: Yes ’faith, and Henges [sic] too, I’me almost desperate, And care not how I am.
[UK]Pepys Diary 26 May n.p.: In the evening by water to the Duke of Albermarle, whom I found mightily off the hooks, that the ships are not gone out of the River.
[UK]D’Urfey Madam Fickle I i: Sir! the Truth is, my Brothers a little off oth’ Hooks; but ’twill quickly away – ’Tis only the overflows of Wit.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Crew Off the Hooks, in an ill Mood, or out of Humour.
[UK]R. L’Estrange quoted in Encyc. Dict. n.p.: Easily put off the hooks, and monstrous hard to be pleased again [F&H].
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].

2. crazy, eccentric.

[UK]R. Brome Damoiselle V i: What, you are off o’the hooks, me-thinks.
[UK]W. Scott St Ronan’s Well (1833) 331: Everybody that has meddled in this St. Ronan’s business is a little off the hooks [...] in plain words, a little crazy.
[US]J.S. Wood Yale Yarns 139: Old Sleuth Davidson [...] never was known to lose his head on any occasion [...] Well, Sleuth Davidson went off the hooks, at last, somewhat in this fashion, according to Little Jack Horner.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 40/2: An’ here’s luck turnin’ up in your comin’ along an’ not goin’ off the hooks after all.
off the hooks [the ancient practice of exposing the head and limbs of executed traitors in public places around a city]

dead; thus drop/go off the hooks, to die; knock off the hooks, to kill, to murder.

[UK]H. Cockton Valentine Vox 95: No man was ever able to write his own life complete. He’s certain to go off the hooks before he has finished it.
[UK]Thackeray Pendennis II 185: I did hope, before I went off the hooks, by Gad, that the fellow that I’d liked [...] would do something to show me that our name [...] was left undishonoured behind us.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn) 156: ‘Dropped off the hooks,’ said of a deceased person.
[UK]Hertford Mercury 22 July 2/7: Lord Palmerston’s a good old soul [...] But he must soon go off the hooks, and then [...] you’ll have to look for Ministers, to fresh young blades like me.
Norman & Grind in Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld) 4 Aug. 2/2: If she ever made any remark to herself on the subject, it was simply, that donkey is going off the hooks very fast.
[UK]E. Greey Queen’s Sailors I 93: Mother’s gone off the hooks.
[UK]J. Greenwood Odd People in Odd Places 37: I thought, to be sure, I was going off the hooks, and it was no use talking about it.
[UK]W.B. Churchward Blackbirding In The South Pacific 133: You’re good now, ain’t you? Of course you are! Then you can afford to go off the hooks first. [...] but I require a little more time to repent.
[UK]Galsworthy To Let I i: Old Timothy; he might go off the hooks at any moment. I suppose he’s made his Will.
on the hook [as opposed to off the hook ]

(US) responsible (for) something that went wrong.

[US]C.S. Montanye ‘Frozen Stiff’ in Popular Detective Mar. [Internet] What have you got? What was the motive? [...] Who have you got on the hook?
[US]‘Hy Lit’ Hy Lit’s Unbelievable Dict. of Hip Words 29: (you’re) on the hook – You’re responsible if anything goes wrong.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 308: Ziggy knows what the guy’s on the hook for. He wants to see you blow his fucking creep head right off.
[UK]Guardian 24 May [Internet] With tens of thousands of drivers eligible for a refund, the company will be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
throw the hooks into (v.) (US)

1. to criticize viciously.

[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 54: Now, what do you think of that frosty-hearted fairy? Literally forced me to drink that punch, gets me ripened up, and then throws the hooks into me.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 224: I don’t mind telling you, Major, that you’ve thrown the hooks into me good an’ plenty.
[US]B. Schulberg What Makes Sammy Run? (1992) 103: You can always tell when he’s thrown the hook into you.

2. to cheat or swindle, to lure a victim.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 334: We ain’t comin’ here no more, not an’ git the hooks throwed into us in this way.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe on the Job 10: There was certain parties he’d thrown the hooks into kind of deep maybe, durin’ the heat of the scrap.
[US]J. Steinbeck Sweet Thursday (1955) 108: The boys throw the hook into him for every dime that sticks out.

3. to trick, to fool.

[US]S. Ford Torchy 99: But we did throw the hook into Aunt Laura some! What?

4. to attack with a weapon.

[US]W.Y. Stevenson At the Front in a Flivver 25 Aug. [Internet] They threw the hook into our batteries all day yesterday, and several of the ‘brethren’ nearly got done for.

In exclamations