To Play Hookey
To Play Hookey : Phrases
To take absence from school; to play truant.
This saying is recorded as Hooky (i.e. no 'e') in mid-19th century U.S., to play truant. In Brewer, it's spelt 'hookey' and a suggested origin is from the idea to hook something is to make off with it.
Alternative: The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997), notes the following. There is no widely accepted explanation for the word hookey or hooky. An Americanism that arose in the late 19th century, when compulsory attendance laws became the rule in public schools, hooky may be a compression of the older expression hook it, to escape or make off, formed by dropping the t in the phrase. Or it could be related to the old slang word hook meaning to steal : kids stealing a day off from school. Hooky has so often been associated with going fishing that it may even owe its life to getting off the hook the way a fish can. School is often insufferable as a hook to school children, and many kids squirming in their seats all day look like they are on a hook.
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