Cahoots

From The Wall Street Journal:

President Trump’s impeachment trial has brought an old American slang term to the fore: “cahoots.”

After Arizona Sen. Martha McSally rebuffed an impeachment-related question from CNN’s Manu Raju by calling him a “liberal hack,” she doubled down on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News show last week by claiming that CNN reporters “are so in cahoots with the Democrats.”

Earlier this month, Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead prosecutor for the House Democrats, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of “working in cahoots with the president,” adding that Mr. McConnell “has made himself an active participant in the president’s coverup.” That theme continued among pro-impeachment protesters on Capitol Hill this week, one of whom told USA Today that Senate Republicans, instead of serving as an impartial jury, are “working in cahoots with the defendant.”

“Cahoots” only ever appears in the phrase “in cahoots,” to suggest a questionable collaboration or secret partnership. It’s a sketchy word with an even sketchier history, and etymologists continue to theorize about where it came from, nearly two centuries after it entered American English.

The earliest known example comes from an 1827 item in a Georgia newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle, about a fictional backwoods orator named Barney Blinn. In a homespun speech railing against John Quincy Adams overturning a treaty between the state of Georgia and the Creek Nation, Blinn complained that “Gin’ral Government and the ministration are going in cahoot to undermine and overrule the undertakings of the free People of Georgia.”

. . . .

John R. Bartlett entered “cahoot” in his 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms and offered an early stab at an etymology, saying that the word was “probably from ‘cohort,’ Spanish and French,” defined as “a company, a band.” That fit the usage that he noted in the American South and West, “to denote a company or union of men for a predatory excursion, and sometimes for a partnership in business.”

In the years since, scholars have suggested many competing conjectures. One theory, supported by the Oxford English Dictionary, traces the term to a different French root: “cahute,” meaning a cabin or temporary hut, which was taken up in Scottish usage. Much as “cabinet” (originally referring to a small cabin) got extended to a circle of confidential political advisers, “cahute” could have followed a similar route for labeling a band of conspirators.

Yet another theory relates “in cahoots” to “cahot” or “cahoo,” a New England regionalism borrowed from Canadian French that was used in the 19th century to refer to a pothole in a road or an obstacle more generally. Thus, perhaps, being “in cahoots” could have originally referred to compatriots facing difficulties together.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG has always thought cahoots was a lovely word plus the younger members of the offspring of PG and Mrs. PG enjoy saying it.

1 thought on “Cahoots”

  1. It is a “lovely” word and you’ve reminded me that I have a music album on this PC entitled “Cahoots” which I’m now listening to. I’ve nothing more to say about the OP though.

Comments are closed.

Secured By miniOrange