Posted by: Jack Henry | December 31, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Have a Hunky-Dory New Year!

Good morning, everyone. Happy (almost) New Year!

Usually we have a little breathing room at the end of the year, so I was hoping to have time to write about different “words of the year” and to do a little review of 2019. But this year our editing cups runneth over and I haven’t had time. Today’s Editor’s Corner is dedicated to the last article I had a chance to look into and write. I guess I will get to “words of the year” in 2020.

Happy New Year!


Dear Editrix,

What does it mean when someone replies, “everything is honky dory”?


Ms. B

Dear Ms. B,

Where do I start? Okay, according to Merriam-Webster, the actual spelling is “hunky-dory.” It is an adjective that means “quite satisfactory” or “fine.” When someone tells you that everything is “hunky-dory,” it means everything is good.” Now, let’s look a little closer at this term.

I think, from your original spelling, you might’ve thought it meant something completely different. “Honky” is a derogatory term for white people, so I imagine that this could have been a bit startling if you thought that was part of the response someone was giving you. And a “dory” is a small, flat-bottomed boat. But really, the term hunky-dory has nothing in particular to do with insulting white people or small boats. No wonder idiomatic phrases are so difficult to understand!

Here is the etymology for the term hunky-dory, from the Online Etymology Dictionary. I apologize in advance to sailors, including my uncle:

1866, American English (popularized c. 1870 by a Christy Minstrel song), perhaps an elaboration of hunkey "all right, satisfactory" (1861), from hunk "in a safe position" (1847) New York City slang used in street games, from Dutch honk "post, station, home," in children’s play, "base, goal," from Middle Dutch honc "place of refuge, hiding place." A theory from 1876, however, traces it to Honcho dori, said to be a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors went for diversions of the sort sailors enjoy. [KC – Maybe they mean singing sea chanties?]

And finally, Hunky Dory is the name of a studio album by David Bowie.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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