So, it's that time of year, and every once in a while I'll hear the Grinch's tune on the radio. One line that has always confused me is the line

You're a crooked jerky jockey, and you drive a crooked hoss!

Given the phrase "Jockey", I'm inclined to believe that "Hoss" is a purposeful mispronunciation of "Horse" in order to keep the flow of the song, but I've never heard of a horse being "Driven" only "Ridden". Is Hoss an archaic slang term for something else? A type of automobile maybe?

  • 2
    You can certainly drive a horse, though as you would drive cattle, deer, or mules, and not as you would drive a car, a golf ball, or a public debate. – choster Nov 22 '16 at 15:17
  • 1
    @choster You can drive a horse to water, and he's more likely to drink if you put salt in his hay. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 22 '16 at 15:32

hoss [OXD]

nonstandard spelling of horse, used to represent dialect or informal speech

drive [OXD]

4.2 Force (someone) to work to an excessive extent.

  • "Drive" is also used to refer to "encouraging" a team of horses pulling a wagon, even when the "work" is nowhere near "excessive". – Hot Licks Dec 20 '18 at 12:59

“Hoss” certainly means “horse” here.

The same simplification of /rs/ to /s/ has occurred in a number of other words (often in informal or dialectal forms): cuss for curse, apparently the verb bust for burst, and American English ass for arse (the form arse seems to have pretty much gone extinct in American English).

protected by MetaEd Oct 11 '18 at 17:20

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