Hoofed and behooved

August 6, 2010


This afternoon, I suddenly got to wondering how a word that looks like it would mean “possessing hooves” came to mean “be a good idea.” Is it because in ancient times before cars were invented, it was a good thing to have hooves, whether they were your own or those of an animal that was carrying or pulling you around? To one way or another have hooves would be advantageous. With the passage of time, did the original meaning get bastardized and generalized until “it would behoove you to” generically came to stand for “it would be a good idea if you”?

Such was my train of thought this afternoon as I pedaled home from work on my round, rubber hooves. I was also relieved that I had topic for tonight’s blog entry other than trying to make how I found half-price Birkenstocks at Marshall’s for my five-toed hooves sound interesting. Well, maybe this isn’t that much more interesting …

The behoove etymology study began at Online Etymology Dictionary.

behoove. O.E. behofian “to have need of,” verbal form of the ancient compound word represented by behoof.

behoof. c.1200, “use, benefit, advantage;” O.E. had bihoflic “useful,” implying *bihof “advantage, utility;” from P.Gmc. *bihafjan (cf. O.Fris. bihof, Du. behoef, M.H.G. bihuof, Ger. behuf “benefit, use, advantage”). In the common Germanic compound, the first element is cognate with be- and the second with O.E. hof, past tense of hebban “to raise” (see heave). The original sense is perhaps, then, “taking up (for oneself).”

hoof. O.E. hof, from P.Gmc. *khofaz (cf. O.Fris. hof, Dan. hov, Du. hoef, Ger. Huf “hof”), from PIE *kopos (cf. Skt. saphah “hoof”). For spelling, see hood. Sense of “to walk” (hoof it) is first attested 1641; “to dance” is 1921 Amer.Eng. (in hoofer).

A quarter in college of Chaucer in Old English does not qualify me as an expert, but I see “O.E. ‘hof’” in both entries. Does my idea have legs?

Also, show horses often have their hooves painted beforehand to make them look nice. In other words, to give them a winning advantage in the ring. It behooves them to have painted hooves.

hoof. “… corresponds to a nail or claw” (Merriam-Webster).

As a woman, does it behoove me to paint my hooves? Does it give me a winning advantage with the opposite sex? I think it’s a little overrated, myself, yet I kowtow to societal pressure and engage in this little bit of primping. This is a new shade, and in the store it looked like it would be quite a bit darker than it is. And these are my newest hoof shoes, the aforementioned Birkenstocks.

Of course I know what I’ve said is completely ridiculous. I’m just having fun.

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