Hitch-hiking in The Oxford
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The Oxford English Dictionary is of course a wonderful place to begin any research into the origin of words. Here's what they have to say about some hitch-hiking terms, including most importantly some wonderfully informative citations that illustrate the evolution of the terms. Those citations I've managed to trace thus far are presented on other pages, with links from this page. Here you'll find the relevant extracts for these terms directly related to hitch-hiking:  It's interesting to look at indirect terms as well. That is, in which contexts over the years the Oxford has chosen to cite hitch-hiking. It says much about the perceived status of hitch-hikers to look at the spread of these words. If we throw away very obtuse references to Douglas Adams, space ships and so on, we're left with words like: 
hitch-hike, v.orig. U.S. Also hitchhike. [f. HITCH v. + HIKE v.] intr. To travel by means of lifts in vehicles. Also fig. Hence as sb., such a journey. Also hitch-hiker, one who hitch-hikes; hitch-hiking vbl. sb. 
    1923 Nation 19 Sept. 297/2 Hitch-hiking is always done by twos and threes.  

    1927 New Masses June 15/1 Most young janes have their heads full of a trip to Paris, or a hitch-hike thru New England.  [note: this citation is in error and not traceable thus far. The staff at the Oxford English Dictionary are unable to trace it nor am I. It certainly doesn't appear the June edition of New Masses anywhere at all as far as I can tell.] 

    1927 Glasgow Herald 6 Sept. 8/7 There are apparently hitchhikers in the United States who boast they can travel 500 miles free of charge without walking more than 10.  

    1931 `B. STARKE' Touch & Go iv. 58, I..wondered how Dot would ever dare..tell the people there that she had hitch-hiked home. Ibid. 64 We may charge this wicked hitch-hiker the ten cents extra that she deserves for asking for a bath towel. 

    1940 A. CHRISTIE Buckle my Shoe 182 He told amusing stories of his hitch-hikes and tramps in wild places.  

    1941 AUDEN New Year Let. 68 Kids When their imagination bids Hitch-hike a thousand miles to find The Hesperides that's on their mind.  

    1945 Daily Mirror 27 Sept., Hitch-hiking by air from London to Manila, five British Red Cross welfare sisters arrived in Canberra, Australia.  

    1958 Manch. Guardian 26 Sept. 4/4 He decided to hitch-hike around the world. 

    1959 Times 1 Oct. 9/6 Hitch-hiking appears to have replaced old-fashioned walking and has obviously graduated into a recognized pursuit, ready perhaps to be nurtured and protected by an international organization empowered to negotiate with transport ministers and police chiefs.  

    1973 Black World Apr. 80/1 Walton sees the need for people to realize their own cultural heritage and not hitchhike on somebody else's.

hitch, v. = HITCH-HIKE v. Also trans., to hitch a lift, etc.: to obtain a lift in a vehicle. 
    1931 `B. STARKE' Touch & Go ix. 133 She told me she had hitched her way down to New Orleans a week before. Ibid. xii. 192 Two lads spoke to me, and asked if I were hitching it by myself. 

    1948 PARTRIDGE Dict. Forces' Slang 94 Hitch a lift, or ride. 

    1959 `G. CARR' Swing Away, Climber i. 17 We hitched - got lifts, you know - from Birmingham. 

    1960 Sunday Express 6 Nov. 7/5 The car in which he had hitched a lift crashed into a lorry. 

    1963 Guardian 4 Feb. 6/5 They hitch there and back.

hitch, sb. [f. PREC. vb.]  = hitch-hike sb. colloq. 
    1955 Times 27 Aug. 7/4 They are not asked in the middle of doing 200 miles in four hours for a half-mile `hitch'. 

    1966 J. PHILIPS Wings of Madness (1967) II. iv. 132, I came down by bus. I thought maybe you'd give me a hitch back.

hitcher, sb. [f. HITCH v. + -ER.] One who or that which hitches. One who hitch-hikes. 
    1960 20th Cent. Nov. 476 Do you often pick up hitchers? 

    1972 R. QUILTY Tenth Session 19 When the road seemed to stretch endlessly..Bill always felt he was doing the company a service by picking up a hitcher. 

    1973 Daily Colonist (Victoria, B.C.) 1 July 4/2 The film company..advertised for hitchers to tell their stories of experiences good and bad.

thumb, v. [f. THUMB sb.] 1. To seek or get (a ride or lift) in a passing vehicle by signalling with one's thumb the direction in which one hopes to travel (also fig.); to signal to (a driver or vehicle) with the thumb. Also intr., to make one's way by thumbing lifts, to hitch-hike. orig. U.S. 
    1932 Sun (Baltimore) 4 Oct. 15/8 He was `thumbed' into picking up two lads.  

    1933 Ibid. 26 Aug. 6/7 New England..is filled with young men and young women who are continually thumbing their way from one camp to another.  

    1934 Amer. Speech IX. 111/1 Those not fortunate enough to possess a car of their own stand by the side of the road and attempt to thumb a ride.  

    1939 N. MONSARRAT This is Schoolroom xii. 250, I thumbed my way across England..spending..four-and-sixpence and walking about thirty miles out of the hundred and fifty. 

    1944 H. NICOLSON Diary 1 May (1967) 369 Eventually an American lorry came along. We thumbed them. They stopped, and jumped off and with many jokes mended the tyre for us.  

    1952 J. CANNAN Body in Beck vii. 135 He had been thumbed for a lift by a desperate man.  

    1958 Landfall XII. 32 When a likely lift came by, Pat would..thumb it with a slow impressive sweep of his arm.  

    1958 Oxford Mail 15 Feb. 1/5 Photographed thumbing a lift near Wolverhampton are two..boys..who hitch-hiked to see the Wolves cup-tie with Darlington at Molineux.  

    1959 News Chron. 14 Aug. 7/5 The only Government-sponsored effort has been a plan to `thumb a lift' in American rockets for British-made instruments.  

    1960 O. MANNING Great Fortune II. 146 He..had been `thumbing' his way through Galicia when war broke out.  

    1975 D. NOBBS Death of R. Perrin 184 Reggie stood at the entrance to the lay-by and tried to thumb a lift.  

    1979 Listener 1 Mar. 314/2 Like many students..I had thumbed my way through France.

2. intr. To gesture with the thumb; esp. to signal with the thumb in the hope of getting a lift in a passing vehicle. 
    1935 G. STEIN Let. Dec. in R. L. White S. Anderson/G. Stein (1972) 99 Yesterday an American described thumbing on the roads.  

    1951 E. PAUL Springtime in Paris xvi. 309 Gilles thumbed over toward the Abbot. `His Nibs should have given us the list in advance.'  

    1955 Times 18 Aug. 10/7, I thumbed for four hours without stopping a single vehicle.  

    1966 R. PRICE Generous Man (1967) ii. 142 He turned to Yancey.., thumbing to the house - `Is that all the house old Rooster can afford?'  

    1976 N. THORNBURG Cutter & Bone viii. 191 He was on the freeway entrance ramp, thumbing with his usual touch of calculated restraint.

thumber, N. Amer. colloq. [f. THUMB v. + -ER] One who `thumbs' a lift, a hitch-hiker. 
    1935 Even. Sun (Baltimore) 8 Feb. 39/8 Chief of Police..has turned `thumbs down' on the `thumbers'. 

    1973 Daily Colonist (Victoria, B.C.) 29 June 31/5 For the hitch-hiker, Canada's roads hold little but terror and horrors, say many thumbers from Toronto.

flag, v. [f. FLAG sb.] a. To inform or warn by flag-signals. spec. To stop (a train) by signalling with a flag. Hence, to stop (a vehicle, person, etc.) by waving or signalling. Also absol. So to flag down, in. b. To communicate (information) by flag-signals. c. To inform by flag-signals that. d. To decoy (game, esp. deer) by waving some object like a flag to excite the animal's attention or curiosity. 
    1856 N.Y. Herald 12 Jan. 1/3, I flagged the Albany express train..with my white flag.  

    1871 Scribner's Monthly II. 433 Old Tom, who flagged at the Cherry street crossing.  

    1884 G. O. SHIELDS in Harper's Mag. Aug. 367/2, I will give you a point or two on flagging antelope.  

    1885 T. ROOSEVELT Hunting Trips vi. 181 One method of hunting them [antelopes] is to..flag them up to the hunters by waving a red handkerchief..to and fro in the air.  

    1886 Leeds Mercury Nov., At Mineke some men working in a limekiln flagged the train on account of an obstruction on the track.  

    1887 Pall Mall G. 24 Mar. 11/1 A map of the battle of Hasheen..was flagged across Wimbledon Common.  

    1893 CAPT. KING Foes in Ambush 51, I flagged old Feeny half an hour ago that they hadn't come through here.  

    1899 A. H. QUINN Pennsylvania Stories 168 At Broad Street the outfit was flagged by a Sergeant.  

    1915 WODEHOUSE Something Fresh iii. 63 George, that nice, fat carver is wheeling his truck this way. Flag him, and make him give me some more of that mutton.  

    1932 W. FAULKNER Light in August xii. 270 And I flagged that car with my right hand.  

    1932 Kansas City Times 18 Feb. 22 Fellows who flag a newspaper man down in order to.. pay a subscription.  

    1940 R. STOUT Over my Dead Body xi. 149 A taxi appeared and I flagged it.  

    1943 N. COWARD Middle East Diary 23 Sept. (1944) 100 The car broke down..however we flagged a passing lorry..and whirled off.  

    1945 E. BOWEN Demon Lover 93 Eric, do you think you could flag the maître d'hôtel 

    1954 L. KLEMANTASKI tr. Fraichard's Le Mans Story viii. 80 Faroux flags in Chinetti's 2 litre Ferrari.  

    1957 S. MOSS In Track of Speed vi. 86 His pit attendants..flagged him in after the race had been in progress for some time.  

    1966 Listener 6 Jan. 23/1, I was driving along Holland Park Avenue..when I was flagged down by three women.  

    1970 `H. CARMICHAEL' Remote Control ii. 22 Mrs. Melville managed at last to flag a passing taxi.

lift, v. To give a lift to (in a carriage, motor vehicle, etc.). Cf. LIFT sb. 
    1884 E. W. HAMILTON Diary 17 Aug. (1972) II. 672 A very hot walk. We got `lifted' back in a carriage; and 
    afterwards played lawn tennis. 

    1954 M. SHARP Gipsy in Parlour xxii. 211 Up she drove, lifted by Mr Simnel the 
    chemist, Taunton-bound. 

    1959 I. JEFFERIES Thirteen Days vii. 87 He'd like to lift me back to Richon fairly soon as the 
    roads were likely to tighten up during the day. 

    1960 Sunday Express 13 Nov. 14/5 A young R.A.F. hitch~hiker I `lifted' 
    from Shepherd's Bush to High Wycombe. 

    1965 I. FLEMING Man with Golden Gun vi. 90 Get in the back. Lift you down 
    to your car. 

    1971 M. RUSSELL Deadline ii. 22 Can you lift me in your wagon, Wally? 

lift, sb. [f. LIFT v. A help on the way given to a foot passenger by allowing him to travel some distance in a vehicle. Cf. LIFT v. 
    1712 SWIFT Jrnl. to Stella 17 June, I generally get a lift in a coach to town. 

    1825 Sporting Mag. XVI. 331 Instead of money for frequent `lifts,' the driver receives..presents of game. 

    1844 DICKENS Mart. Chuz. xxxv, To get a lift when we can. To walk when we can't. 

    1876 GEO. ELIOT Dan. Der. IV. l. 8 Giving patience a lift over a weary road. 

    1929 M. DE LA ROCHE Whiteoaks v. 70 `Don't they ever send a car for you?' `Good Lord, no. Sometimes I get a lift.' 

    1944 J. S. HUXLEY On Living in Revolution ix. 106 We found that a bus recorded on the time-table was in reality non-existent; cadged a lift on a road foreman's car to Denness. 

    1955 Times 26 Aug. 7/4 After giving a `lift' to a hitch-hiker one will have lost only a tablespoonful or two of petrol, perhaps a teaspoonful of oil, and a saltspoonful or two of rubber off the car's tires. 

    1974 `J. LE CARRÉ' Tinker, Tailor xxxiii. 293 Declining a lift, Smiley said the walk would do him good.

lorry-hop, v. to hitch-hike by lorry; so lorry-hopping vbl. sb.; lorry-jump v. = lorry-hop vb.; so lorry-jumping vbl. sb.
    1925 FRASER & GIBBONS Soldier & Sailor Words 147 *Lorry hopping (or jumping), a familiar term at the Front for travelling by begging `lifts' from passing transport vehicles. 

    1928 BLUNDEN Undertones of War 201 By luck or judgment in lorry-hopping..one reached Boulogne. 

    1931 Times Lit. Suppl. 12 Nov. 899/3 She `hitch-hiked', the American equivalent for `lorry-hopping'. 

    1933 A. G. MACDONELL England, their England xvii. 286 He walked a bit from Alton, and then *lorry-hopped, in army fashion, as fas as..Alresford. 

    1947 Penguin New Writing XXI. 98 An ex-convict..who lorry-hops across England in order to escape the police. 

    1947 L. HASTINGS Dragons are Extra v. 101 He..*lorry-jumped his way back to his own battery. 

    1963 Guardian 6 Apr. 4/5 The moral dangers of young girls `lorry jumping' or frequenting roadside cafés.

bi, a. and sb. Colloq. abbrev. of BISEXUAL a. and sb. Also in Comb., esp. as bi-guy. orig. U.S. 
    1970 A. REID Confessions of Hitch-Hiker xxi. 207 Raphael was bi. Or perhaps it was us who had lured him over to the other side of the fence. 

Black Jack, black-jack,  sb. A weapon consisting of a weighted head and short pliable shaft, used as a bludgeon. Hence as vb., to strike with a blackjack. U.S. 
    1946 P. QUENTIN Puzzle for Fiends (1947) xv. 106 Perhaps you gave a ride to a hitchhiker who blackjacked you.

bum, v. slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.). [? back-formation from BUMMER. Cf. BUM sb.] to bum one's way: to make one's way by begging; to hitch-hike. 
    1925 F. SCOTT FITZGERALD Great Gatsby (1926) vii. 154 He was probably bumming his way home.  

    1932 E. WILSON Devil Take Hindmost ii. 8 Some will bum their way - others will have their transportation provided. 

ginormous, a. slang. Also gi-normous. [f. GI(GANTIC a. + E)NORMOUS a.] Very large, simply enormous; excessive in size, amount, etc. (esp. in comparison with one's expectation). 
    1970 A. REID Confessions of Hitch-hiker vi. 45 We went to a posh café...The prices were ginormous. 

mis-step, sb. a. A wrong step. b. = FAUX PAS. 
    1974 Publishers Weekly 4 Feb. 64/2 Henry Keller..picks up a hitchhiker... For awhile, he shares her sexual favours... Becky is killed accidentally. The police don't care much; neither does Henry's wife, who forgives his misstep.

provo, Provo, sb. [a. Du. provo, abbrev. of F. provocateur.] A member of a group of young Dutch agitators of anarchist persuasion, whose policy was to provoke the authorities; the Dutch anarchist group or movement. Also attrib. 
    1966 Times 15 June 1/5 For several weeks there has been unrest in Amsterdam. Young men and women calling themselves `provos', from the French provocateur, who reject any authority or discipline, have gathered in certain parts of the city to provoke police intervention. 

    1967 Listener 19 Jan. 83/2 A somewhat riotous group of youngsters, who called themselves Provos, organized themselves and started to prove the validity of their organization's name by provoking the authorities.  

    1967 J. EASTWOOD Little Dragon from Peking x. 97 Hitch~hikers, autostops, Blousons noirs, provos from Amsterdam.  

    1968 Listener 22 Feb. 233/1 Police action against a Provo demonstrator when Princess Beatrice of the Netherlands was married in 1966.  

    1970 New Yorker 8 Aug. 50/3 One of the most interesting aspects of Provo, the Dutch movement that was among the first and brightest of the radical movements of the last decade, was that it blossomed forth with a number of responsible civic ideas.  

    1976 J. VAN DE WETERING Corpse on Dike v. 58 You look funny..but you don't look like a hippie or a provo or a bird-of-protest.

room, v. Also Sc. roum, rowm. [f. ROOM sb.] chiefly U.S. intr. To occupy rooms as a lodger; to share a room or rooms with another; to live together in the same room(s). Also to room it
    1937 Observer 22 Aug. 7/2 He dressed like a hobo, hitch-hiked from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and roomed on the town's Main Street as a plain British seaman.