What Is a Toboggan: Hat or Sled?
The Debate Began
Several years ago, we had some friends who were Yankees (and they were pretty darn proud of that fact). He was from northern Maine and she was from New Hampshire. You really don't get much more Yankee than that. This was their first winter in Texas.
On a particularly cold day, I mentioned that their son needed a toboggan. I got the strangest look from them. SInce we had no snow on the ground they thought I had lost my mind. They asked me why he needed a toboggan. I told them "to keep his head warm, of course". They roared with laughter. That was the first time I realized that everyone in the world didn't call a knit cap a toboggan. To them, a toboggan was a wooden sled. No wonder they wanted to know why I thought their son needed one! And, no wonder they found it so funny that I thought by him having one it would in any way keep his head warm.
They honestly thought I had lost my mind. Here I was, nearly 40 years old, and I had been calling knit caps toboggans all my life. Of course, they were the same age and had always known sleds as toboggan's all their lives.
It's not that I didn't know a certain type of sled could be called a toboggan, we just don't have them in Texas. They, on the other hand, couldn't fathom a hat being called a toboggan.
The Research Began
Well, that began the research and the mission for us all. They were determined to prove me wrong and I was determined to prove to them that at least one dictionary in the world acknowledges that it can be hat as well.
I did eventually find a dictionary that had toboggan has a hat, but it was a large two volume set and I wasn't going to pay that much money to prove a point. However, you're beginning to see more and more dictionaries (printed and online) include toboggan as a type of winter cap or hat. Wikipedia also acknowledges it as a type of hat.
It really became a quite a topic of contention between us. So much so, that I finally named my dog "Toby" as a jab at them. That's Toby, short for toboggan.
Both parties would quiz people we met on the street hoping to determine the regions of the United States that saw it on either side.
From the research I've done, it appears that there is a Southern region of the United States that use Southern American English and they use the term toboggan as a hat. A map of that region can be found on Wikipedia.
So, how about we put on our toboggans, pull out our wooden toboggans and take Toby for a ride?