Add 'Hobo' To The List Of Four-Letter Words

'Hobo' — A Brief History, A Look At How The Term Turned Into A Stereotype, And Why The Word Has Got To Go.



Almost a hundred years ago, during the great depression, people travelled from town to town in search of short-term employment. Odd jobs and temp work that helped put food on the table during one of the leanest times in American history. Looking back, it might have been one of the earliest examples of a gig economy. When work was sparse and money tight, people, mostly men young and old, would hitchhike and ride the rails to work and back home again. A generation became famous for it. It even became part of pop culture. They were called hobos — a name they gave themselves — believed to be short for ‘homeward bound’. Hobos were often portrayed in print and, years later, in film and on television. At the time, being a hobo, while challenging, was honourable. A hobo worked hard, doing jobs many people in more fortunate situations would not do, and they made sacrifices in an effort to survive and to provide for others. But they wouldn't sacrifice their pride or their reputation. In fact, they established a hobo code of conduct that today is still followed by the few thousand remaining and real hobos in the States. Real because the term hobo took on a different meaning over time that is not reflective of its origins. As the depression grew, and with it desperation, more and more men became transient but not all followed and respected the rules of the road and the established hobo code of conduct. The actions of this new group who seemed to care only about themselves — cursing, public intoxication and petty crime — represented something worse and unfortunately came to represent the hobo. Dirty, dishonest and disrespectful, almost a century later hobo reflects only the negative stereotypes of transient life once displayed by a small wave of wanderers. Now, it's time to lose the term altogether.


It's time for a lot of things