Category Archives: h


What could be more insulting than having all the economic miseries of life named after you? That’s what happened to President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. The wretched shantytowns of the homeless were known as Hoovervilles. Hoover flags were empty pockets, turned inside out in hopes of finding a stray coin. Newspapers that men wrapped around themselves when sleeping rough were called Hoover blankets. Hoover shoes featured cardboard linings to cover the holes in the soles. Even a busted flush in poker was nicknamed a Hoover flush. Like “malefactors of great wealth,” “Hooverville” made a brief comeback with the economic downturn of 2008.

Hooverville, Seattle, ca.1932-1937


This putdown first gained popularity in the 1850s as a way to show a lack of awe toward the powerful. The term is borrowed from Chinook Jargon, a trading language used by Pacific Northwest tribes during the nineteenth century. Muckamuck means food or provisions and the phrase hiu muckamuck translates roughly as “plenty to eat.” English-speaking Americans adopted a slightly mangled version as slang for a “big shot,” possibly with the idea that having plenty of provisions translates into wealth and power. Politicians who needed taking down a peg were soon being sarcastically labeled “high muckamucks.” The label is still occasionally heard today, and still works just as well.