Friday, October 2, 2009


posts submitted by Dick Palmer -

Recently I have seen the over-use of the term "hoagie" or
"hoggy" applied to people who drove mules on the canal. The term did
not exist during canal days and is fiction. They were "canal
drivers" and nothing else. if you want a hoagie you go to Jreck
Subs, not to the canal. It was NEVER used during the entire
existence of the Erie Canal - was a term contrived by a folklorist,
possibly Samuel Hopkins Adams.

I had a little discussion with Tom Grasso, president of the
Canal Society of New York State, regarding the blatant misuse of
mythical terms applied to the canal that never existed and he said:

"The hoagie or hoggy thing is among one of the worst offenses. I
have never come across the term in any official publication I ever
read. 'Canawler' is another. I have come across boatman and possibly
driver (even this I am not quite sure about--could have dreamt it).
The only other possibility is that the term "hoagie" was the
equivalent of today's urban street talk. But even in interviews that
I have heard and read about, I can't recall "boat people" ever using
the term."


One comment I got from this was the following, which I think
is sort of weak. It reminds me of all the people who try to define
the origin of the term "Hojack" as applied to the old New York
Central/RW&O railroad along the south shore of the lake. I suppose
it's possible "hoggy" could be derived from what he says, but the
fact it is, I can find no contemporary reference to it ever have been
applied to the Erie Canal.

"I've looked into the hoagie matter and only found one mid-20th
century reference (not specific to the canal) - I heard that the term
was Scottish in origin - so, I referenced a Scottish relation in PA
(now deceased)who understood the term immediately referring to the
trade of driving draft animals. The term combined "ha" or
"ho" (meaning left) and "gee" (meaning right) - referencing the
verbal commands to a team of draft animals. He also noted that it was
important not to switch the team positions - one was always left and
the other was always right. Anyway - perhaps this sheds some light as
to the root of the misuse of the phrase."

The main problem is that the canal parks and museum
interpretors are misleading the public - some even stating with
assurance that little girls were also "hoggies." " Hogwash" is more
like it.


I suppose the loosely used term "hoggie" or "hoagie" is no worse
than those signs "You are now entering the Erie Canal National
Heritage Corridor" posted along the Thruway and seemingly everywhere
else that's not even close to the canal. They say the canal corridor
is 15 miles wide. When was this? During the Ice Age?

I've also suggested that dinner boat cruise operators service
hoagies on their cruises in honor of those who drove the boats.


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