Hitch-hiking in Error
While the true origin of the term "to hitch-hike" is lost to us, there
has been some curious speculation that missed the mark completely. So it
is that in Everyman's Modern Phrase and Phable, Gyles Brandeth writes:
Webified by Bernd
Wechner - Please respect his efforts and avoid plagiarism (namely uncredited
copying of this page).
hitch a lift means to beg a free ride in another person's vehicle.
It is easy to imagine that this is a relatively new expression, coined
since the advent of the internal combustion engine, but in fact the word
hitch is, in this context, based on the verb to hitch-hike which has far
older origins. To hitch-hike originally referred to a means of travel involving
one horse and two people. One person would ride the horse a decent distance,
then dismount, hitch the animal to a convenient tree or post, and hike
on by foot. Eventually the second travellerwould reach the horse, mount
it and ride until he caught up with his friend. This way of getting about
was: widely used and was generallyknown as 'riding and tying'. In 1737
Dr Johnson and the actor David Garrick travelled from Lichfield to London
using the method, but they were certainly not the first or last to do so.
Which, as Thomas F. Adams points out, is wrong! Cute, but wrong. This is
what William and Mary Morris have to say in Morris Dictionary of Word
and Phrase Origins :
hitchhike evolved from the fact that a hitchhiker has to do
some hiking between lifts and, at least in the early days, used to have
to hitch (catch on to) a slowly moving vehicle. One time, in our syndicated
column, we noted that hitchhike is a fairly recent coinage. Some sources,
we said, used it in reference to a means of travel whereby two people would
use a single horse in this fashion: one would ride for a fair distance
while the other proceeded afoot. The first would then dismount, tie up
the horse, and start walking. The second traveler, upon reaching the horse,
would then mount and ride until reaching the one afoot, when the process
would be repeated. We indicated some skepticism about this story, so Professor
Thomas F. Adams of the University of Toledo very properly takes us to task.
Alas neither Morris, nor Brandeth, nor indeed Adams shed any real light
onto the origins of this word. It does indeed appear to be a more recent
some time in the 1920's in the USA.