What is the meaning of “in his hat five ways”: (from Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories)

One little sniffer with his eyes half shut and a mitten on his nose, laughed in his hat five ways and said.

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    Looks like it's better asked on Literature, because it doesn't appear to be a popularly used expression. – NVZ Aug 26 '17 at 16:44

To laugh in one's hat is an idiom meaning "conceal one's amusement or glee"—you don't allow others to see that you are amused or that you have secured some great advantage.

In this case it appears that the 'little sniffer' is excited by Gimme the Ax's project of going somewhere where things are not always the same; but he conceals his excitement and ironically echoes the prevailing wisdom, that things are always the same, even if you go to the moon.

Five ways suggests that the 'little sniffer' found five different sources of amusement in the situation; but having read even just the first paragraphs of this story you are no doubt already aware that Sandburg uses language as much to entertain as to communicate information. I think it's just an intensifier.

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  • This makes sense, but I can't find any references to such an idiom. Do you know any? – NVZ Aug 27 '17 at 2:22
  • @NVZ Here's an example, from The New Republic: "The [CIA agents] that always broke—that had the manic breaks, volunteered for the KGB—were either very naïve or crazy. The other people just sort of laughed in their hats at the way the system works, and waited for retirement." – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 27 '17 at 2:56
  • @NVZ And here's another, from bizjournals.com: "Boone Pickens told us in 2005 that oil would hit $60 a barrel and, guess what, it did. More specifically, Pickens said crude oil would see the $60 mark before it dipped to $40. Critics were laughing in their hats in late 2004 as oil prices skidded nearly to $40, but Pickens gets the last laugh." ... Another more common version is "laugh up one's sleeve". – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 27 '17 at 2:58

One with glee to conceal may also be laughing up his sleeve.

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