My hubby and I get a kick out of watching the History Channel's Pawn Stars. They have some truly awesome stuff come in there that does a history-lover's heart good. =) So as I was browsing through interesting words today, I thought we'd talk about pawning and hocking as we look forward to watching Rick and Chumlee tonight. ;-)
Pawn is an old word, first used a noun (something left as security) in the late 15th century. It came from the Old French pan, pant, which meant "pledge, security" or "booty, plunder." Interestingly, the same word also means "cloth" in Old French, raising the question of whether cloth was used in exchange. The word became a verb round about 1560, and pawnbroker sprang up in 1680.
American English added hock into the mix in 1859, and it meant both "in debt" and "in prison," interestingly enough. It was specific toward gamblers being in debt to one another in its early days. Again, the word began its life as a noun and didn't become a verb until about 20 years later.
So if anyone else likes to watch the guys in Vegas wheel and deal on interesting pieces of history, tonight you can watch it knowing they're in a profession whose words date back as far as modern English goes . . . which means they've probably been around pretty much forever. =)