Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Santa’s Hos

Posted by Neal on November 30, 2005

One time when I was living in a college dorm, the floor’s resident assistant thought it would be a good idea to put a dry erase board in our elevator lobby. I saw a few messages on there that put the board to its intended use–“Tom, we’re in the TV room,” etc.–before the board degenerated into a forum for insults, as every dry erase board in a men’s dormitory must.

One week, all the insults seemed to involve the word ho. This interested me. Although I’d been hearing ho for several years, I had only recently begun to realize that it wasn’t just an African American Vernacular English pronunciation of whore. I was hearing it from people who didn’t drop their postvocalic r’s in other words, who could say for example, four more hos instead of fo’ mo’ ho’s. Evidently, for some people ho wasn’t just a way of saying whore; the word was just ho, plain and simple. This dry erase board was the first place I’d seen ho written out, and in each of the numerous messages it appeared in, it was ho. On my way to supper one night, I made my own contribution to the board:


I chuckled to myself as I waited for the elevator. I thought I was pretty funny. But what really cracked me up, and still cracks me up even now, was what I saw on the board after I came back from supper:

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