There are three meanings for this word:
— A rough, clumsy, unsophisticated countryman, or a yokel, a rube
— A large, heavy, clunky shoe or boot
— Big feet
In the 17th century, “clodhopper” referred to a farmer who used a horse-drawn plow and therefore had to hop over the clods it churned up. Perhaps it was also an allusion to the grasshopper. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the word was used to describe the heavy shoes such plowmen normally wore.
However, the real beginning was the word “clod,” which originally meant a coagulation such as a ‘clot of blood.’ In the early 15th century it came to mean a lump of any solid matter, such as a clod of earth or clay. Then, about 1595, the word began to be used figuratively to describe a dull person or more specifically a thickhead or blockhead.
The first unambiguous usage to mean a country bumpkin wasn’t recorded until 1824. Later variations include ‘cloddy hop,’ and ‘clod jumper.’ In the 1950s, in the American West, a farmer or plowman became known as a ‘clodbuster.’ So says my research, but I’ve only ever heard a farmer described as a ‘sodbuster.’
The meaning ‘large heavy shoe’ appeared in 1836 (20th century synonyms are shit-kickers and shit-stompers), which in the 1960s also became a synonym for both the ‘clodhopper’ bumpkin and the fool; boondockers is also a shoe synonym from the1950s. In the 1960s to ‘clodhop’ came to mean to walk heavily and clumsily.
The first usage of ‘clodhoppers’ for big feet was in 1918. ‘Clod-crusher’ was an epithet listed in an 1889 dictionary which was said to be used by Americans to describe the large feet which they believed to be characteristic of English women as compared to the women of their own country.
It was usually used, as a term of derision, by townspeople at the expense of muddy-booted yokels — much in the way the ‘bog-trotter’ is now used to defame the rural Irish.
The term has been used in commerce as well. In Victoria BC, Driftwood Beer brews “Clodhopper,” described as “A complex fermentation profile with notes of bubblegum and dry, with a delicate caramel note derived from Belgian dark candi sugar.”
In 1917, a move called “The Clodhopper” was shown.
And from Winnipeg, Manitoba, came crunchy, fudge-covered graham clusters called Clodhoppers. They were available in vanilla, chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate fudge, and trademarked “Cookies & Clods” flavours. The peanut butter flavour was the first flavour to be discontinued and in October 2012, the line itself was discontinued.
The Krave’s factory in Winnipeg once produced 2,500 pounds of Clodhoppers per hour. By 2006, the company’s Clodhopper production plant in Winnipeg employed more than 20 employees and sold millions of the candies throughout North America.
And I never knew about those candies! I get the feeling I missed something delicious. Or at least something more appetizing than heavy boots or big feet.