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
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 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. Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 15:32

2 Answers 2


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
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 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).

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