I pray you sir, what is he?
He is knight, dubb'd with unhatch'd rapier, and on carpet
consideration, but he is a devil in private brawl. Souls and
hath he divorc'd three, and his incensement at this moment is
implacable, that satisfaction can be none but by pangs of
and sepulchre. Hob, nob, is his word; give't or take't.
The phrase "hab nab"—or "hab or nab"—had been around for about
seventy years when Shakespeare's Sir Toby Belch put an irreversible
spin on it and gave us "hob nob." "Hab" probably originated as a
verbal form, perhaps as a particular mood of "have"; "hab nab"
would then be akin to other verbal phrases such as "willy nilly"
("will I, nill I"). In older English, some verbs could be negated
by changing the first letter to "n"; the "nill" of "nill I," for
example, means "will not." If this model applies to "hab nab," then
"nab" means "hab not" or "have not." As we can see from Sir Toby's
phrasing, he equates "hob, nob" with "give't or take't," that is,
give the knight the stab or take it from him.
The phrase went through some interesting twists after
Shakespeare; "hob, nob" became a drinker's phrase, referring to the
trading off of draughts. Almost immediately the phrase was turned
into a verb, was eventually cleaned up a little, and came to mean
"fraternize" or "hold familiar conversation." In a continuing
process of gentrification, the phrase arrived at its present-day