Could you please tell me what “hooking up” means in the following dialogue (from Hemingway’s newly discovered short story "Pursuit as Happiness")?

“Hook her up, Josie!” I yelled. “He’s taking all of it.” [i.e., the marlin is pulling all the line out.]

“She’s hooked up, Cap. There he goes.”

As you surely see, ‘her’ and ‘she’ refer to their fishing boat and ‘he’ is the big marlin that has been hooked and is pulling the line out.

Meaning of hooking up is clear in sentences like “. . . forgot to hook the boat up to the trailer!” and “Did you ever hook the boat up to the tow vehicle?” but I can’t get the meaning of it in the above-mentioned dialogue.

  • It being a "newly discovered" text, we don't have access to the full context unless you provide it here. But from what I know about Hemingway (and marlins), it could be he's asking Josie to fasten various belts and straps around some special "big game fisherman" seat bolted into the structure of the boat, so he can strap himself in there with the rod and line, and spend the next several minutes (or hours?) engaged in a trial of strength and endurance with the hapless marlin. I doubt "her" refers to the fish though. Hemingway being a "man's man" wouldn't fight a "lady" fish. Jun 23, 2020 at 16:26
  • ...or perhaps they're in a larger vessel, and the idea is for the fisherman to have that trial of strength after getting into a much smaller boat that the marlin might even be able to tow around for hours until he's exhausted. I don't know what passed for "sport" among such people. Jun 23, 2020 at 16:30
  • 1
    It's possible that "hook her up" meant speed up the boat No - it would never mean that. "Her" probably refers to the harness. Probably he was already wearing it but not attached. Jun 23, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    If you ever watch 'Jaws', there is a scene where the shark takes the bait and begins to run off. The rod and line is hooked-up to the structure of the boat to prevent it flying out of Quint's hands due to the power of the fish pulling on the line. Jun 23, 2020 at 17:58
  • 1
    Note that "hook up" has easily a dozen different connotations.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 23, 2020 at 19:49

1 Answer 1


It means full speed:

“[Go full speed], Josie!” I yelled. “He’s taking all of it.”

“She’s [at full speed], Cap. There he goes.”

. . . The reel was too hot to hold and the core of line on it was getting thinner and thinner in spite of the Anita going full speed after the fish.

“Can you get any more [speed] out of her?” I called to Mr. Josie.

“Not in this world,” he said. “What you got left?”

“Damn little.”

It appears to be era-specific (Hemingway's story is set in 1933) engine lingo. Search "hook her up" boat speed and "hook up the engine".

Here is some 1931 testimony from a New York Supreme Court Case on Appeal:

Q. Hook her up does not mean to put up a line on the boat? A. No, sir.

Q. Or to fasten her up to the boat, but it means to hook the engine's valve up, so that she has full steam, and that means, in other words, full speed? A. It gives that word to the captain, to the pilot house, and he maneuvers it with bells to hook the boat up to work it on the ship.

Q. (By the Court:) So that it will go fast, is that it? A. Fast, yes, sir.

Q. So that when pilot Shooks on the bridge of the steamer said to the tugboat to hook her up, he was giving her an order to go full speed ahead? A. Yes, sir.

Here's an excerpt from Zane Grey's An American Angler in Australia (1937):

"There's a fin!" yelled Bill, suddenly. He was up on deck. "Far ahead and going fast."

"Chase it," I ordered. "Hook her up, Pete."

We ran down current like the wind . . . Peter saw him again and that encouraged us. He opened up the engine full ahead and we roared over the swells, leaving a white wake behind us.

"There he is!" shouted Peter, pointing. "Going like one thing!"

"Don't run him down, Peter," I said, as I caught my first glimpse of the big gleaming tail fin. "It's a black Marlin."

Peter slowed down. But we had to go at least at a ten-knot speed in order to come up with the fish. His tail went under, came up again, flashed opal and gold, vanished, to show once more.


Further reading: Hooking up the engine


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.