The origins of ‘hoin’’: Chris Brown trial slang, decoded

Chris Brown leaves the District of Columbia Superior Court on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo)
Chris Brown leaves the District of Columbia Superior Court on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo)

The man who claims singer Chris Brown punched him in the face described in D.C. Superior court last week how the altercation played out. Brown, he said, objected when he tried to take a picture with the star.

“Why you hoin’?” 20 year-old Parker Adams said he asked Brown.

“Hoin’” means disrespecting, he testified during the trial of Brown’s bodyguard, Chris Hollosy. Disrespectful enough, apparently, to earn Adams a slug that left him bleeding, according to his testimony (Brown, whose trial could begin on Monday, has maintained that he’s innocent).

Michael Adams, a professor at Indiana University at Bloomington and a slang expert, breaks it down for us. Hoin’ he explains, is the verb-ification of the noun hoin, which, according to an entry in Green’s Dictionary of Slang, arose in the late 1990s to mean an “unfriendly” person. So Adams was saying Brown wasn’t being very nice.

But that wasn’t all, Adams says. Hoin’ also has other meanings, having to do with members of the world’s oldest profession, making the word a multi-pronged barb. “And there’s no way to insult a man more than to associate him with women,” he says. “That’s just an example of persistent sexism.”

The use of slang in the courtroom can be slippery, Adams notes, because you don’t always find the words in dictionaries, even specialized  ones like his Green’s. “It’s regional, or specific to one culture or another — basically, slang means whatever those who use it say it means.”

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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