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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 109

though the former has one meaning that is specially American, i. e., that of information or formula, as in racing-dope and to dope out. Most etymologists derive the word from the Dutch doop, a sauce. In English, as in American, it signifies a thick liquid, and hence the viscous cooked opium. Hop is simply the common name of the Humulus lupulus. The belief that hops have a soporific effect is very ancient, and hop-pillows were brought to America by the first English colonists.
  The derivation of poker, which came into American from California in the days of the gold rush, has puzzled etymologists. It is commonly derived from primero, the name of a somewhat similar game, popular in England in the sixteenth century, but the relation seems rather fanciful. It may possibly come, indirectly, from the Danish word pokker, signifying the devil. Pokerish, in the sense of alarming, was a common adjective in the United States before the Civil War; Thornton gives an example dated 1827. Schele de Vere says that poker, in the sense of a hobgoblin, was still in use in 1871, but he derives the name of the game from the French poche (=pouche, pocket). He seems to believe that the bank or pool, in the early days, was called the poke. Barrère and Leland, rejecting all these guesses, derive poker from the Yiddish pochger, which comes in turn from the verb pochgen, signifying to conceal winnings or losses. This pochgen is probably related to the German pocher (=boaster, braggart). There were a good many German Jews in California in the early days, and they were ardent gamblers. If Barrère and Leland are correct, then poker enjoys the honor of being the first loan-word taken into American from the Yiddish. But more likely it is from the German direct. “There is a little-known German card game,” says a correspondent, “which goes by the name of poch. It resembles poker in a number of ways. Its name is derived from the fact that at one stage of the game the players in turn declare the state of their hands by either passing or opening. Those who pass, signify it by saying, ‘Ich poche,’ or ‘Ich poch.’ This is sometimes indicated realistically by knocking on the table with one’s knuckles.” I leave the problem to the etymologists of the future.