John Ayto's book on food words is infinitely better than the recent
LADYFINGERS; Ayto says the meaning of "hoagie" is a mystery, while the latter
book didn't mention it at all.
In my limited time for research, I can clearly discount the
"hokey-pokey" derivation cited previously in a book by the Library Company of
Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Philadelphia. Didn't they do ANY
If they did, they should have found this in Philadelphia magazine,
November 1970, page 82:
A GREASY DOZEN
A gastronomic quest for the
perfect hoagie unearthed
one runny exemplar
and 11 slippery also-rans
BY WILLIAM K. MANDEL
(...) Before setting out in actual quest of the perfect hoagie, we had to
determine what the perfect hoagie is. But first, a little history: the
origin of the name "hoagie" is the subject of bitter debate among people who
can get excited about that sort of thing. The oldest legend has it that the
Italian workers laboring at Hog Island--near the present Naval Base during
World War I--took their lunches to work inside large Italian breads. From
Hog Island came "hoggie," which in time was corrupted to "hogie" and then
turned into "hoagie." Field research has shown that several older shops in
South Philadelphia still advertise their specialty as "hogies," which clamps
down the case right there.
The hoagie, by the way, has spread to other localities where its
etymology has been somewhat corrupted. In New England it's called a grinder;
in New York it's a submarine--sub for short--or hero sandwich; in Reading
it's known as an Italian sandwich and in the Lancaster area it's a zep.
Thus, it's a simple transition from Hog Island to "hogie"--which should
be "hoggie" but became "hoagie."
Too bad; I liked the strip club "ho" etymology. Oh well.
This is from the Philadelphia magazine "Dining Out" for August 1972, page
One last place we know for particular tastes is the takeout counter at
Woolworth's, 1330 Chestnut Street. Woolie's makes an ultra-cheap 45-cent
hoagie filled with the most ordinary ingredients, sliced razor-thin. It
should taste awful, but somehow it doesn't. It's one of the most popular
items on their menu, sampled by every one from business executives to
down-and-outs, We personally know one editor of a famous magazine who
occasionally passes up the $5 Big Lunch to have a Woolie's hoagie. For
another 20 cents, you can get the jumbo size with twice as many razor-thin
ingredients, but it really doesn't taste any better.
R.I.P. to the Woolie's hoagie.