Definitions

Huckster

Huckster

[huhk-ster]
A Huckster is also a character class in the role-playing game Deadlands.

A huckster is a seller of small articles, usually of cheap or shoddy quality, or one engaged in haggling or making petty bargains, that is, a certain type of peddler or hawker.

In Scotland, the term huckster referred to a person, usually a woman, who bought goods and resold them in tiny quantity to others who were too poor to buy in quantities available at market. The goods were of no worse quality, though tended to be in the poorer quality range since economy was paramount. Scots burghs often felt the need to control hucksters because they operated without a stall, on the economic fringes. In particular, they were subject of accusations of forestalling, in this case the practice of buying goods wholesale, "before the stall" and therefore before tax was paid.

The word was in use circa 1200 (as "huccsteress") and was spelled hukkerye, hukrie, hockerye, huckerstrye or hoxterye at one time or another. The word was still in use in England in the 1840's, when it appeared as an occupation in census returns. The word is related to the Middle Dutch hokester, hoekster and the Middle Low German hoker, but appears earlier than any of these.

The story 'The Goblin and the Huckster' by Hans Christian Andersen relates that human nature is attracted to a state of happiness as represented by poetry and to sensual pleasure as represented by jam and butter at Christmas. The huckster, through his haggling and bargaining, is seen as industrious because he possesses the jam and butter (sensual pleasure) and the student is seen as poor but happy because he appreciates the beauty of poetry above all else. Meanwhile, the huckster's talkative wife and the cask in which are stored old newspapers both have plenty of authoritative knowledge to share but are paid little attention compared to the primal desires of humankind, which constantly compete for (the goblin's) attention.

In science fiction fandom, the term "huckster" is used non-pejoratively to designate dealers in science fiction-related books, magazines and paraphernalia, particularly those who deal at science fiction conventions.

References

  • Brown, Yvonne Galloway, and Ferguson, Rona, eds, (2002) Twisted Sisters: Women, Crime and Deviance in Scotland Since 1400, Tuckwell Press
  • Sanderson, Margaret H.B. (2002) A Kindly Place?: Living is Sixteenth-Century Scotland, Tuckwell Press

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