Much has been made about the language used on the HBO series Deadwood. Most talk about the use of profanity. Many of you would say that when you think of Deadwood, you think of the word “cocksucker.”

However, much of the dialog on the show is like poetry, and there are many unusual words. Characters use the word “poor” or “poorly” instead of “sick,” for example.

One word stands out among many for me as the unique word of the series: Hooplehead. David Milch admits he pretty much grabbed it out of the air. The indefatigible Michael Quinion assays that it might derive from a comic strip, but there’s not even a Wikipedia entry for it.

Used most often by Albert Swearingen, its always used in third person, never as a direct accusation. It’s obviously derogatory, and doesn’t appear to be a racial slur. As words go, it’s a fine word to describe those who have done foolish things.


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