ABOUT- Why The Hook?

It's not just because it's a good idea– so many metaphors and phrases take it in useful directions: a good news story has a "hook" that grabs you from the first line you read; steady readers get "hooked" on reading a great paper. The list goes on and on, and you've probably started adding to it on your own already. We certainly have.

No, it's not just because it's a good idea. It's because, like anything worth its salt in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, it has history.

As late as the mid-1970s, and probably going back decades before that, University of Virginia students (and, some whisper, students at other

Fine Colleges on the East Coast) had code names for grades: A = Ace, B = Bag, C = Hook, D = Dog, F = Flag. They could be used as substitutes for the grades themselves ("Whadja get on the physics exam?" "I barely got a bag.") Or, more often, they were used as verbs. ("Howdja do on your term paper for that old geezer?" "I got lucky. I aced it.")

Many seem to think the equivalency of "C" and "Hook" (the only pair, as you see, in which the word's initial letter doesn't match the letter of the grade) came from the physical shape of the letter "C" itself. A special relationship evolved among the word "hook," the University, and Charlottesville. Some say you just start with "C'ville" and turn it into "Hookville." 

Others, hypothesizing a more complex sleight-of-mind, say that students proudly regarded UVA as a "gentleman's C school," so the town was alternatively called "the Hook" or "Hookville." In 1978, University students so identified with the word that they called their student-published directory "The Hook Book."

Urban legends further explaining the association abound, chief among them the belief that Charlottesville is such a cool place that it "hooks" you in so you never want to leave. We trust our new alternative weekly lives up to that version of this tradition, apocryphal though it may be.

Special thanks to Jeffrey Plank, Bill Van Doren, Kathleen Valenzi, Bill Sublette, and Wayne Cozart.


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