“Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

As a child reading Hitchhiker's Guide, it struck me as rather odd that after the above statement, "Hoopy" as an adjective kind of fell by the wayside in favour of "Froody". Back then I had come to the conclusion that Adams had discovered Hoopy was a derogatory term or something to that effect and decided against using it after that but I certainly can't find any evidence to support that theory.

So is there any real life reasons for Hoopy disappearing?

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    I'm ashamed to say I don't have the original radio scripts - I wonder if the section quoted is in the orignal radio drama and thus was just ported to the novel. If so - then it's possible it didn't get re-used much for a couple reasons: 1) on the radio, you'd have to re-establish the definition each night for new listeners 2) Adams was notorious for changing bits between mediums and also for not caring a tinker's cuss about continuity. Check out the Neil Gaiman book "Don't Panic" for a good history of the series...
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 6:00
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    ...if it isn't in the radio drama and was invented for the novel, then it's mostly likely just that the joke stands on it's own. Adams wasn't Tolkien trying to create a new language - he was an comedic writer. The funny bit isn't the word itself. There's no reason to re-use the word outside of the context of the joke.
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 6:05
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    It is word for word from the radio play (personal recollection, but I remember Peter Jones stumbling over the "have sex with" line)
    – James K
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 6:57
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    In comedy, once is funny. Twice is meh. Three times is too much. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 14:38
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    It wouldn't be hoopy to use the word hoopy too often.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 14:42

4 Answers 4


"Hoopy" is hitchhiking slang, and we don't see many hitchhikers talking among themselves

There is actually one sentence missing that leads to the "Hoopy" quote. The full quote from the books is this:

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

It's clear that this sentence is supposed to be hitchhiker slang, and we simply don't see many real hitch-hikers who would talk among themselves in slang in the novels.

We see Zaphod using the word "Frood" once, but it would not be out of character for him to emulate slang in order to sound cool:

"Frogstar World B, and man it's a dump", said Zaphod running onto the bridge. "Hi, guys, you must be so amazingly glad to see me you can't even find words to tell me what a cool frood I am." "What a what?" said Arthur bearlily.

(The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Chapter 13)

We see Ford using the word Hoopy, but not in the sense the Guide defined it. The most likely explanation for this is that due to his time on earth, Ford is also not up to date with the latest Hitchhiker slang. Or, as people have pointed out in the comments, he could be using it as the hitchhiker's equivalent of "Dude!"

"This one's a dead hairdresser. Hoopy!"

(The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Chapter 23)

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    Before reading this question (and your answer) I would have sworn blind that the phrase "hoopy frood" appeared in the books. I gues I am probably remembering "hoopy Ford" as "hoopy frood" but, since you seem to have a way of searching the books, could you just confirm that "hoopy frood" never appears?
    – terdon
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 20:03
  • I suspect that "hoopy" has variable meaning, and despite the official definition being "a really together guy" it can be used as an adjective meaning something along the lines of "cool", "wonderful", "sexually desirable", etc, or an interjection meaning (approximately) "Gosh!", "Darn!", or "Omyfunkinggodimgonnadieimgonnadieimgonnadie!!!". This can lead to some awkward moments. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 20:38
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    Please permit me to translate the last quote for you: Ford's using it more or less in a manner congruent to one of the ways 'dude' is used as an interjection or expostulation: "This one's a dead hairdresser. Doood!"
    – Lexible
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 4:28
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    @terdon yes, Hoopy Frood never appears in the books!
    – Philipp
    Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 5:36
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    @terdon In case this is in your library: "The way we see it, a truly hoopy frood would use Python 3." (Reitz, Kenneth. The Hitchhiker's Guide to Python) I read this for the first time shortly before the question was posted. Can someone calculate the improbability of that, please? Commented Dec 5, 2019 at 5:43

I have a feeling I'm overthinking it, but I always kind of thought it was sort of being implied that the Guide says that that's the cool way to talk, but no one really talks that way. Like, the joke is that the Guide is silly or something.

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    I got the same impression, that it's a meta reference about the inability of written media to keep pace with the way language is actually used and/or a commentary on how a small group of people can try to establish themselves as an authority on language but are likely going to end up looking out of touch (coupled with the apparent fact that the Guide's contributors don't seem to be particularly effective).
    – delinear
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 10:59

The section that you quote appears in Fit the Eighth of the original radio series and, as others suggest, is just a satirical dig at slang. The scene is the offices of Megadodo Publications where all the coolest dudes hang out and Zaphod Beeblebrox has just met Roosta and they are discussing towels. There is really nothing more to it than that.

"Hoopy" only appears once more in the radio series, later in the same episode en-route to the Frogstar. Zaphod uses it to Roosta:

Hey Roosta, I've had this really hoopy idea.

The Hitchhiker's Guide is full of plays on words, and other linguistic tricks. Far too many to list here. The twisted use of English is one of the greatest strengths of the work as a piece of writing.

Another dig at language usage comes in Fit the Tenth on Brontithal. This time, instead of slang, the satire is about obscenity:

In today’s modern Galaxy there is, of course, very little still held to be unspeakable.


But though even words like “juju-flop,” “swut,” and “turlingdrome” are now perfectly acceptable in common usage, there is one word that is still beyond the pale. The concept it embodies is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the galaxy except one - where they don’t know what it means.

That word is “Belgium” and it is only ever used by loose-tongued people like Zaphod Beeblebrox in situations of dire provocation.

As with "hoopy", "swut" and "belgium" are only ever used again within the same episode.

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    I think of this quote everytime I happen to visit a certain european country which will remain unnamed since my parents taught me not to use bad words in public ...
    – Francesco
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 10:52
  • What a turlingdrome! :-) Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 20:47

It was a one-off gag for the radio, poking fun at "hipster slang". Just as the joke about "having a towel" was a one-off joke, that Adams thought was funny enough to pick up again later, he (apparently) thought the word "frood" was funny enough to reuse.

Perhaps "Hoopy" is just not as funny. However Wikia mentions several later uses of Hoopy (though perhaps not from the radio play) for example in the film Ford describes using the improbability drive to turn some missiles into a sperm whale and bowl of Petunias as a "hoopy idea".

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