By Hook or by Crook

One of the problems with colloquialisms is how they are bound by eras and geography. So what you know something to mean can have a different connotation to others — if it is understood at all.

My mother-in-law called to tell me they were finally on the road for a long awaited visit. I teased her that she must not of thought of an excuse to not come. She said, “We’ll be there — by hook or by crook.”

I laughed and hung up but the expression nagged. When they arrived I told her that I could see using the expression “beg, borrow or steal” to get here but — seriously? Hooking and crooking?

She wasn’t really sure what the statement meant so she couldn’t convince me that my assumption wasn’t valid.

Another aunt and uncle knew the original meaning. In old time theaters, if someone was really bad, they would pull them off of the stage with a giant “hook” or a Shepard’s “crook.” They were removed against their will and by force. So to say “I’ll be there by hook or by crook” means unless something beyond my power prevents me, against my will — I’ll be there.

Of course, if the unforeseen happens, maybe a little hooking and crooking will get you there. Though I don’t recommend it.

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