H is for Hobo
By: Joshua Glenn | Categories: Idleness, Read-outs

A series of 26 posts featuring excerpts from Joshua Glenn’s The Idler’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2008) and The Wage Slave’s Glossary (Biblioasis, 2011). Both books were coauthored by Mark Kingwell, who contributed entertaining philosophical-critical essays on the subjects of idling and wage slavery; and both were wittily illustrated and designed by the cartoonist Seth.


A 19th-century term that originated in the American West, among train-hopping laborers who preferred it to “tramp.” To the well-off, “hoboing it” meant spending the summer on the road, fancy-free. But during the Depression, some two million men and women hoboed out of dire need, forming a nation with a nation with its own currency, signs and symbols, songs, and folklore. Preston Sturges’ great 1941 film Sullivan’s Travels explores the dark side of hobo culture; more recently, John Hodgman’s satirical almanac, The Areas of My Expertise, popularized its lighter side.


ALSO: Alienation | Big Rock Candy Mountains | Corporation | Dawdle | Employee of the Month | Flazy | Greybearding | Hobo | Inemuri | Jack of All Trades | Knock Off Work | Lazy | Micawberish | Nobbing It | Onboarding | Pink Slip | Quitter | Robot | Stakhanovite | Time and Motion Study | Unemployment | Volupté | Wage Slavery | Xerox Subsidy | Yakuza | Zero Drag



Joshua Glenn is a cultural and brand semiotician, and co-principal of the agency SEMIOVOX LLC. He is editor and publisher of HILOBROW and the Radium Age sci-fi paperback imprint HILOBOOKS. He is author of (with Mark Kingwell and the cartoonist Seth) THE IDLER'S GLOSSARY (2008) and THE WAGE SLAVE'S GLOSSARY (2011); and he is co-editor of the object-oriented story collections TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY (2007) and SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS (2012). With Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Tony Leone, Josh produced the popular family activities guides UNBORED (2012), UNBORED GAMES (2014), and UNBORED ADVENTURE (2015), not to mention two UNBORED activity kits from MindWare. In the ’00s, Josh was an editor and columnist for the BOSTON GLOBE's IDEAS section; in the ’90s, he published the high-lowbrow zine/journal HERMENAUT. He was born and raised in Boston, where he lives with his wife and sons.