Playing hooky

Playing hooky is serious busines, pic: homeschool-curriculum-savings.com

Playing hooky used to be for kids: when they secretly skipped school, that is not attended without a good reason, they played hooky.

It is used more broadly these days to include grown-ups as well, who stay away from work most likely pretending that they are sick or at least somebody in their family is sick.

Example:

“It’s great weather for swimming.  Let’s just play hooky  today and worry about school tomorrow.”

The origin of the phrase is unclear, several theories exist but nobody really knows.  I guess that leaves us free to pick whichever we like best :

to hook something is a slang term for stealing – so when playing hooky one steals some free time, a day off.  I sort of like that explanation.

The next one goes back to the 19th century when the phrase hooky-crooky was used for dishonest and underhanded.  Dishonest sounds a bit strong for skipping school – but other parents might feel more strongly about this than I do.

Another source claims it comes from the Dutch term hoekje which means hide and seek – that I like, too, it is a playful expression and brings back good childhood memories of skipped school days.

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