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OnWords: Honyock


This commentary originally aired on February 23, 2016.  

When I was growing up, my cousins and I were sometimes accused of being honyocks.

“Honyock” was applied to us by older relatives who were tired of our noise and horseplay and just wanted us to settle down and cut it out already. 

Online sources of varying quality contend that “honyock” is either a Hungarian word making fun of country folk or an English word making fun of Hungarians. One source even says that “honyock” comes from German and means “honey chaser.”

Whatever its true derivation, “honyock” has been noted as a somewhat loving pejorative from southeast Kansas all the way to rural Montana, and its use includes the Mennonite stock from which I spring.

Aside from reinforcing the unreliability of online sources, the case of “honyock” demonstrates the persistence of colloquial expressions even in the overwhelming presence of the standardized forms of English we’re taught in school.

As online communication threatens to shrink English to a few well-placed letters and increasingly offensive emoji, “honyock” and other down-home words remain.

So be your own linguistic honyock, and take your favorite colloquialism public. Say it loud and say it proud, and increase the richness of English.