Blowing a hoolie/hooley

How often do we use an expression, knowing what it means, but never quite knowing why it means that.

During the past week, it has been blowing a hoolie.  The sound of the wind screaming through the treetops and rattling anything not tied down is enough to tell me that. And, of course, the weather talk has been of hurricane Ophelia and storm Brian.

The photo above shows this hoolie of a hurricane (Ophelia) has broken a lump of rock off the Green Bridge of Wales on the Pembrokeshire Coast

It doesn’t appear in my copy of “A dictionary of phrase and fable” nor in “A dictionary of idioms”. According to Longman’s “Dictionary of the English Language”, a hooley is a party or celebration (especially a noisy one) in New Zealand.

Searching for a definition on the internet turned up a few interesting origins.

The Hooley River is located in India and runs through Calcutta. “It’s blowing a HOOLEY”, comes from when steamship captains were unable to sail up the river – but I’m not sure this makes sense – surely a steamship would have more problem with the current/tide than the wind.

In some dialects the word “whole” is pronounced to rhyme with “fool”. So perhaps when the wind blows a hooley you don’t get a steady gale, you get the “whole” of the wind at once – somewhat like the ‘organised’ rain our weather forecasters tell us about.

Several sources give it as short for “blowing a hooligan” (of a storm) possibly navy slang.

A hooley seems to be a strong wind – claimed as a local expression in blogs from Australia and South Africa – and probably a few others too.

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang defines it as “a rip-roaring party” and marked as originally Irish, though this sense has a history in the US as well. Not quite the hooley I was looking for! (And by the way, the word hooligan also comes from the Irish – the name of a family who livened up the London scene somewhat when they moved there. I can’t look up one word without looking at the others on the same page.)

And it also has connections with smoking cocaine – I think I’d rather not know that one.

Well, whatever it comes from, there is a howling gale outside at the moment!

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