goon

\ \ [20] The antecedents of goon are murky. It may have been inspired by goonysimpleton’, which is first recorded in the 1890s and which may well be the same word as the much earlier gony with the same meaning, which in turn goes right back to the 16th century and could be related to Scottish gonyelfool’. An ultimate connection with the obsolete verb ganeyawn’ has been suggested, but all we know for certain about goon itself is that it was introduced to the English language at large in America in 1921 by Frederick Lewis Allen, writing in Harper’s Magazine. He claimed that it had been in use in his family for some years, with the meaning ‘stolid person’, but he had no suggestions to offer as to its origins. It then disappears from the record until the 1930s, when its resurrection seems to have been set in train by ‘Alice the Goon’, a slow-witted, muscular character in the comic strip ‘Thimble Theater, featuring Popeye’ by E.C. Segar, which first came out in 1933 (it is not clear whether Segar knew about the earlier, 1920s usage). Taken up enthusiastically in student slang, by the end of the decade goon was firmly established in the senses ‘fool’ and ‘thug, strong-arm man’. During World War II it was applied by Allied prisoners of war to their German guards, and it has often been suggested that that was the inspiration for the goon of The Goon Show (originally Crazy People), the popular BBC radio comedy programme of the 1950s. Its creator, Spike Milligan, denied this, and said that he got the idea from the ‘Goon’ of the Popeye cartoons. Either way, it is the show’s particular brand of comical surreality that colours today’s meaning of the word.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • goon — goon; goon·da; goon·die; goon·gar·rite; jar·goon; la·goon·al; la·goon·side; dra·goon; la·goon; ran·goon; …   English syllables

  • goon — 1921, stupid person, from gony simpleton (1580s), of unknown origin, but applied by sailors to the albatross and similar big, clumsy birds (1839); sense of hired thug first recorded 1938 (in ref. to union beef squads used to cow strikers in the… …   Etymology dictionary

  • goon|ey — goon|y or goon|ey «GOO nee», noun, plural goon|ies. a goony bird; albatross. goony or gooney bird, = albatross. (Cf. ↑albatross) …   Useful english dictionary

  • goon — [gu:n] n informal [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: Partly from gooney stupid person (16 19 centuries); partly from Alice the Goon, character invented by the U.S. cartoonist E. C. Segar] 1.) especially BrE a silly or stupid person 2.) especially AmE a… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • goon — ► NOUN informal 1) a foolish or eccentric person. 2) chiefly N. Amer. a ruffian or thug. ORIGIN perhaps from dialect gooney «stupid person»; later influenced by the American cartoon character Alice the Goon …   English terms dictionary

  • goon — ☆ goon [go͞on ] n. Slang 1. [< ?] a ruffian or thug, esp. one hired to help break a strike, etc. 2. [after Alice the Goon, grotesque comic strip figure created by E. C. Segar (1894 1938), U.S. cartoonist] a person who is awkward, grotesque,… …   English World dictionary

  • Goon la — Goon lā (Nepal Bhasa:गुं ला) is a month of Nepalese calendar Nepal Sambat. The month roughly corresponds to August of Gregorian Calendar. The month is marked by musical pilgrimage made by Newars. Every morning during the month, Newari bands from… …   Wikipedia

  • goon — [ gun ] noun count INFORMAL 1. ) a strong or violent man whose job is to protect his employer: We were surrounded by security goons. 2. ) a stupid person who is always breaking things …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • goon — [n] ruffian bozo*, bruiser*, dope, gorilla*, hood*, hooligan*, jerk, lummox, moron, nincompoop, ninny, sap, strong arm, thug, tough guy*; concepts 412,423 …   New thesaurus

  • goon|da — «GUN duh», noun. a thug in India. ╂[< Hindi gu ā] …   Useful english dictionary

  • Goon — A goon is is a term for a hired thug. That is usually sent out to do the dirty work for the people who hire them. It is also used as a word meaning fool. A goon can also be a member of a gang like the Goon Squad.Goon may also refer to: *… …   Wikipedia

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