A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from March 03, 2005
“The Hawk” or “Hawkins” (strong cold winter wind)
Chicago's wind is called "Hawkins," or "The Hawk." The origin of the name is a mystery, but one thing is certain: it didn't originate in Chicago.

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang
Volume II, H-O
by J. E. Lighter
New York: Random House
Pg. 48:
Hawkins v. [orig. unkn.] Black E. 1. keen winds or bitter weather. Also Mister Hawkins.

Dictionary of American Regional English
Volume II, D-H
Cambridge, Mass: The Belknap Press
Pg. 925:
hawk n
1. also with the; also Hawkins; The wind, esp. that of winter; cold weather; winter. chiefly Chicago IL chiefly among Black speaker

HDAS and DARE citations:
1934 Baltimore Sun Dec. 21) 14: Hawkins is outside (is coming). [HDAS}

1944 Burley Hndbk. Harlem Jive 25: I tossed and rolled./Trying to collar a wink as Hawkins blew cold. Ibid. 26: Mister Hawkins flapped it round like a hothouse fan. Ibid. 140: Hawkins:...Cold winter wind. [HDAS]
1946 (1972) Mezzrow-Wolde Really Blues 333 IL Hawk: winter. Hawk's out with his axe: it's freezing weather. [DARE}
1946 Boulware Jive & Slang 4: Hawkins...Cold weather. [HDAS]
1958 Hughes & Bontemps Negro Folklore 484: Hawkins: The wind, wintertime, cold weather, ice, snow. In February, Hawkins talks. [HDAS] [DARE]
1964 R. S. Gold Jazz Lexicon 141: According to jazzmen, Hawkins has been current esp. among black jazzmen since c1900, hawk since c1935. [HDAS]
1966 Lou Rawls "Live" (Phonodisc) Chicago IL, In the wintertime when it's very, very cold...when it's around ten above zero and it's about twelve inches of snow outside, and the hawk, I'm speakin' of the almighty hawk, Mr. Wind, when he blows down the street around 35, 40 miles an hour it's just like a giant razorblade blowin' down the street, and all the clothes in the world can't help you. [DARE]
1970 DARE (Qu. B18...Kinds of wind) Infs IL137, Hawk...IL139, The hawk. [Both Infs Black, both from Chicago IL] {DARE]
1972 Claerdaut Black Jargon 68, Hawk...the wind: The hawk is strong tonight. [DARE}
1972 DARE File Chicago IL [Black]. The hawk - cold weather, esp. with strong cold winds. The hawk is coming. [DARE}
1977 Smitherman Talkin 67 [Black}. Ashy refers to the whitish cvoloration of black skin due to exposure to the Hawk (cold and wind). [DARE]

21 December 1934, Baltimore (MD) Sun, "Down the Spillway" by John O'Ren, pg. 14, col. 7:
NEITHER friend nor stranger is safe from my inquiries since I first embarked on the enterprise of ferreting out the derivation of "Hawkins," meaning a bitter wind, something disagreeable, or a bogeyman, as defined by our cook.

While my efforts thus far have been marked by a signal lack of success, a friend the other day contributed an interesting analogy. I was telling him of my theory that "Hawkins" is descended in its present form from the name of Sir John Hawkins, British admiral and slave trader--due, no doubt, to the fear he inspired among the Negroes with whom he dealt. My friend countered this by telling me of the use of Oliver Cromwell's name today in Ireland.

The dictator and his cropheads, not content with terrorizing the cavaliers, so conducted themselves among the Irish that even to this day his name is anathema to any true son of Erin. Hence, when some child has been particularly naughty, so says my friend, its nurse will bring it to time with the threat: "Oliver Cromwell will get you if you don't behave."

27 December 1934, Baltimore (MD) Sun, "Down the Spillway" by John O'Ren, pg. 10, col. 7:
Dear Spillway:
I have a very faint gleam of light to throw on the darkness of the saying "Hawkin's (sic) is outside" when the wind is biting cold. My young colored cook says that her old father always used the expression when he was alive, and that her mother thinks he meant that there was a mean old man going by. Why not your British slave trader?
Baltimore, Dec. 24.

IT LOOKS as though we were on the right track, or, as the youngsters say, a "hot trail."

5 January 1935, Baltimore (MD) Sun, "Down the Spillway" by John O'Ren, pg. 10, col. 7:
Dear Spillway:
I am a little late telling you what I know about Hawkins, but Christmas and one thing and another delayed me.

I remember, as a small child, hearinf adult members of my family--of Virginia stock for many generations--say on a day when the wind was particularly high and cold, "Hawkins is certainly out today." I have heard similar expressions from Negroes, but I have never had the impression that Hawkins was of African origin. It was my idea that the darkies had borrowed him from the whites.

This idea is strengthened by what my wife tells me. She is English, and spent her early years in Devonshire and South Wales, and she says that Hawkins was frequently mentioned there when the wind was especially nippy.

But who Hawkins is and why he should be the personification of a sharp and cutting wind, neither she nor I, nor anyone else I have talked to, has any explanation whatever. I hope your researches may discover the answer. At least the gentleman seems to be widely, if rather unfavorably, known.
W. G. M.
Norfolk, Va., Dec. 31, 1934.

8 January 1935, Baltimore (MD) Sun, "Down the Spillway" by John O'Ren, pg. 10, col. 7:
Dear Spillway:
In the interest of the advancement of science, I recently asked a venerable Negro named Clarence Thomas whether he had ever heard the expression "Hawkins is outside."

He replied in the affirmative and said that his old father had frequently used this quaint expression to indicate that the weather was inclement, cold and windy. I then asked him what his notion was as to the etiology of this bit of folklore. He replied that he did not know.

I beg to remain, sir, your obedient servant, always willing to aid in the advancement of the sum total of human knowledge.
Baltimore, January 6.

I'LL BET he said: "Etiology, Marse Scientist? Etiology? That's sumpin' we all just ain't studyin' a-tall!"

9 January 1935, Baltimore (MD) Sun, "Down the Spillway" by John O'Ren, pg. 10, col. 7:
Dear Spillway:
In the long, long ago when I was an apprentice on an Eastindiaman -- we spelled it that way then; it was in the late eighties -- I used to hear great yarns about a famous Pirate Hawkins, a native of Penzance, Cornwall, England, from our old sailmaker, who also said Hawkins was an ancestor of his. Hawkins always chose the worst of weather to make his raids in the English Channel and about the Cornish coast. Thus, I expect, he became a second Flying Dutchman to the weather-wise. I began my sea life in 1889 and ended it in 1920. Happy New Year!
Colonial Beach, Va., Jan. 6.

WELL, the consensus is -- whatever the Research Department may ultimately report -- that Hawkins was a devil of a fellow, and again I am disposed to offer my apologies to the most excellent members of his family for ever bringing up the subject.

24 October 1936, Chicago (IL) Defender, "Bronzeville in Chicago" by James J. Gentry, pg. 20:
And these cold mornings are on us -- in other words "Hawkins" has got us. Many of us didn't have time to think about our "kivvers," for "Hawkins" sneaked upon us overnight.Some smarty has launched a smart number titled, "When Winter Comes, Will You Be Ready?"

2 December 1939, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, "Backdoor Stuff" by Dan Burley, pg. 20:
PEOPLE ARE FUNNY. They rip and run to a scene of violence as though their very lives depended on being there first. 'Twas early Tuesday morning a week ago and the icy wind whispered evilly: "I am Mister Hawkins. Have you got it? I am Mister Hawkins. Have you got it?" A lot of folks out that time of the morning were answering in the negative as the icy wind blew more convincingly and searched beneath summer underwear for cringing flesh with frozen fingers that numbed at the touch.
And in going to town his fingers ripped the red dress from the neck to the hem and the icy wind growled: "Bewate of tempting me. I am Mister Hawkins."

18 October 1941, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, "Back Door Stuff" by Dan Burley, pg. 14:
LATEST reports are that there's a scuffle and a shuffle on the part of the playboys to trade in their Cadillacs for overcoats since Mister Hawkins (the wind, to you) started blowing so strong the past few days.

15 January 1944, New York (NY) Amsterdam New, "Dan Burley's Back Door Stuff," pg. 10A:
And there were the Homeys, who during the heavy heat stretch, put it down in the surf or on the turf, with those flimsy drapes and Big Apple capes, who are now shaking and quaking as Hawkins asks each and every livin', "ole man where's your benny?"
A benny is an overcoat and Hawkins is without question, the cold winter wind.

30 September 1944, New York (NY) Amsterdam News, "Dan Burley's Back Door Stuff," pg. A14:
BACK DOOR WEEKLY CLOTHESLINE: That wind, old man, is Mister Hawkins asking: "Hey, boy, where IS your overcoat?"

30 November 1946, The New Yorker, pg. 75:
(Pg. 78, col. 2 - ed.)
"Hawkins is inside tonight," she said. "I only got five shots."

"It's still early," Miss Palmer said.

"Who's Hawkins?" I asked.

"Oh, that's just an expression that means things are bad," Miss Cook said. "I picked it up from the musicians. There used to be an amateur drummer down in Washington named Hawkins who was always getting some band to let him sit in with them. He was so terrible that when everything was going wronf in the joint the musicians got to saying that Hawkins was inside. When things were jumping, they'd say Hawkins was outside. Well, so far as I'm concerned, he's inside every place on the Street tonight."

20 November 1952, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. A1:
As they came to the door, there was an outburst of jazz music. Outside the Jimmy Walker band was playing Bellson's song, "The Hawk Talks."

23 September 1956, New York (NY) Times, pg. 138:
COLEMAN HAWKINS: The Hawk Talks (Decca). The elder statesman of the tenor saxophone is plagued by strings and steel guitars throughout most of this disk, but he manages to break through occasionally with some of his customary strong, striking statements.

7 January 1973, New York (NY) Times, pg. 159:
The sun isn't up yet and the "Hawk," Chicago's cruel wind, lashes down on the thousands of workers huddling at bus stops.

19 February 1989, New York (NY) Times, pg. SM34:
IN THE SOUTH SIDE OF CHICAGO, in the lobby of a former union hall, there hangs an old photograph. Striking stockyard workers, blacks and whites, are huddled together for solidarity, and perhaps for warmth, against the fierce winter wind that whips off Lake Michigan, an infamous gale known here as "The Hawk." Across the photograph is emblazoned the slogan, "Negro and White - Unite to Fight!"

15 July 1997, New York (NY) Times, pg. A10:
But not even the infamous winter wind, known here as The Hawk, appears likely to chill the property market here.
Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesWindy City, Second City, Chi-Town (Chicago nicknames) • Thursday, March 03, 2005 • Permalink

Hawkins surely sounds mysterious. I really don’t know the origin also but I’m guessing that its from a bird.

Posted by rat poison  on  09/05  at  12:17 PM

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