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I picked up the phrase 'attention whore' from this question at ELU. On the next day I remembered the phrase as 'attention hooker.' It transformed and this one even sounds better for me, but I guess it is idiomatically flat wrong. I don't feel the difference since hooker and whore have the same meaning.

How do you feel the difference as a native speaker? Is the difference so striking that If I use it somewhere, I will be corrected by a native speaker: "We say whore, not hooker"?

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As a native speaker (I live in the USA) it sounds more like you are trying to get a hooker's attention than describing a person as a hooker. Just reader the line I read it in my mind this very way. –  Rajano May 8 at 19:11
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(From the USA) I would assume you are asking about an attention hook. Such as in an advertisement: "Save 15% on your car insurance". –  Phil May 8 at 21:06
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Whoa, this sure turned out not to be the question I thought it was when I clicked through. –  Codeswitcher May 9 at 2:02
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To me (non native speaker) hooker and whore aren't necessarily the same thing. A hooker is a prostitute while the term "whore" MIGHT describe a prostitute. A whore can simply be promiscuous. Someone who is "whoring around" doesn't make any money. –  André Stannek May 9 at 9:41
    
When I first read the question I thought you were referring to the hook (sometimes Hook) which is the part of an advertising campaign or street scam that draws in the victim. –  user6334 May 9 at 14:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 24 down vote accepted

The difference as far as I am concerned is that while the two words may have an essentially identical dictionary definition, hooker is never used as a direct insult; it is actually less pejorative and more literally descriptive.

If I catch my fiancee sleeping with my best friend, I would never say "You hooker! How dare you!", but only "You whore! How dare you!"

Conversely, if we spot someone actually out on a street corner trying to trade sex for money, I would be much more likely to say "wow, I didn't know hookers worked this part of town"

So to answer your final question, yes: if you were to call someone an "attention hooker" I would look at you funny and say "actually, the phrase is 'attention whore'."

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It is also worth mentioning that hooker is US slang. If you said "attention hooker" outside of the US it would most likely be assumed that you were trying to flag down a rugby player. –  Marcel Turing May 9 at 5:04
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No, the word hooker is absolutely not uniquely American slang. I come from the greatest Rugby football playing nation on Earth, and unless I was actually at a football game, I would be far more likely to assume that hooker meant prostitute, rather than the football position. –  David Wallace May 9 at 8:45
    
Hooker is not used as much in England as it is in the US, I don't think- but it's not exclusive to the US. I think if you said "attention slut" or "attention slag", it would sound odd, but less odd than "attention hooker"- at least to my ears. –  Matt Fletcher May 9 at 13:30
    
I'll add that "hooker" can be colloquially playful. In HBO's True Blood, Lafayette (a homosexual African American) consistently calls his female friends "hooker" in a friendly, and not derogatory manner. Much the same way African Americans often call each other "nigger" in a playful, non derogatory manner. The latter is a cultural anomoly, however, and the use of "hooker" in this manner should not be considered widespread, common, or appropriate. –  David Wilkins May 9 at 14:58

The established term is attention whore.

There is certainly nothing to prevent you from employing the term attention hooker; but it has a different rhythm, it will not be familiar to your hearers, and it risks confusion with The Hook, which is common in the CW trade I follow for any attention-grabbing device at the opening of a text or video.


Commercial Writer / Corporate Whore

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Yes, that's actually what I thought when I saw the question title; I expected the post to be about an "attention getter" at the start of a book/commercial/what-have-you. I was ready to correct "hooker" to "hook", and was surprised to find that was actually what they meant! +1 :) –  WendiKidd May 8 at 19:27

You shouldn't use the word whore in polite company. The correct phrase is attention seeker, but you could say attention whore if you are sure that you won't offend the company you are in.

The phrase attention hooker is just wrong.

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The "attention seeker" to me would describe a much weaker behaviour. So if I wanted to say "attention whore" but felt it was inappropriate in the company, I'd say "an awful attention seeker" or something similar. –  gnasher729 May 9 at 15:40

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