This one is just a random discovery. I was using the word in something I was writing, and realized that I didn't know how to spell it. "The hoosgow" is one of the many slang words for jail, so it wasn't something I was wondering about. I was using the word because I think of it as slightly outdated slang but really didn't have any other particular interest in it. I thought it had a slightly German sound, or maybe came from one of those Middle European immigrant communities, like the Czechs or the Polish.
Nope. Hoosgow is from the Spanish. Mexican Spanish more probably. It's actually a western U.S. kind of thing, not an eastern or Midwestern one, although I'd imagine made near universal with the world popularity of American westerns. It seems to have come into print around either 1908 or 1911--I'm getting some varying info on that, but Dictionary.com casually says its an Americanism from the 1860s. The Spanish word is juzgado. In any case, not a word for "jail" but for a court or tribunal.
It's funny, I've been brushing up my Spanish lately and juez or judge is one of the ones I've come across in the process. I was rather pleased that the Spanish made sense to me, but if there is a more variant spelling of juzgado than hoosgow (or hoosegow), I'd be hard pressed to find it.
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