According to G.L. Cohen, author of Studies in Slang Part 1 (1985), the phrase smart alec(k) arose from the exploits of one Alec Hoag. A celebrated pimp, thief, and confidence man operating out of New York City in the 1840’s, Mr. Hoag, along with his wife Melinda and an accomplice known as “French Jack,” operated a con called the “panel game,” a method by which prostitutes and their pimps robbed foolish customers. 

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I was going to talk in this post about being the daughter of a smart alec, but after reading the origin of that word I might reconsider or you might think my Father was a pimp!  He was not, but he was a wise guy who joked with everyone he met and had the best poker face.  He could look at you and tell you something with the greatest sincerity and you would then “buy it” and he would then crack that smile and get that twinkle in his eye and you would have to keep your hand from smacking him!

He always kept people off kilter with this ability.  You never knew from moment to moment if what he was telling you was the truth or he was just messing with you.  In most cases he was messing with you.  You would look him in the eyes and wait to see the twinkle that told you he was lying and pulling your leg. 

My Dad also had a very soft spot for people down on their luck and would take them into our home from time to time.  One person in particular was Marvin (as we say in the South “bless his heart”) was a bit slow.  He was a great mechanic at the bowling alley my Father managed, but in most of the other areas he was slow. 

He had a mighty appetite.  In our family there was a lot of people and a bit more food than we needed, but not much more.  Marvin was a bottomless pit!  If there were leftovers he would devour them.  If we wanted to reheat the spaghetti we would find that he had ate it, the milk he drank it, the bread he inhaled it.  It got to be a bit maddening.

So my brothers, sister and I hatched a plan to teach him a lesson.  Into some leftover spaghetti we put about a 1/2 can of black pepper, a 1/2 canister of red pepper flakes, about the same amount of chili powder and mixed it all together well.  We warned those not in the know so they wouldn’t eat it. 

Marvin came home and he made a beeline for the fridge and straight for the leftover spaghetti.  He didn’t even take time to heat it up, but took his fork and tore into it.  Word passed among us and one by one we found a reason to pass through the kitchen. 

“He’s eating it…”

“He’s still eating it…”

“There are tears coming out of his eyes…”

“He is not even drinking water!”

Next thing we knew Marvin came into the living room with his face flushed and sweating drinking a large glass of cold water.  We are trying hard to contain our laughter when, all of a sudden, Marvin says


We busted out laughing.  Marvin had no clue why it was so funny!  None of us said a word, but doggone if he didn’t tear into the spaghetti again when there was leftovers! 

Perhaps he liked it hot!