Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

4 comments on this post.
  1. Lynne:

    Interesting that gunda should be posited as a source for goon. I cannot remember when or where, but I distinctly remember either hearing or reading at least one instance when someone that might also be called a goon was called a “goombah”. Sorry I can’t be more specific, but that’s the way my memory works sometimes.

  2. Ryan:

    You probably heard the term “goombah” either in a movie concerning the NY mafia, or when someone parodies its members. I think Richard Pryor (or maybe Eddie Murphey) used that term in one of their stand-ups.

  3. Bill Culbertson:

    I have never seen anyone discuss goon coming from the family name Goon. Was there a family that was so thuggish that their name became a synonym for bad behavior?

  4. Peter Neufeld:

    The dictionary explanations given for the origin of this word are imaginative but devoid of evidence.
    It refers to a strong but blindly obedient enforcer, such as might serve a gangster. It was used in the Second World War by prisoners of war to describe the camp guards and from there was used in the BBC comedy series The Goon Show.
    The first recorded use (1887) is many years before the date given in dictionaries. The short story “The Three Musketeers” from Plain Tales from the Hills by Rudyard Kipling uses the word to describe the rank-and-file soldiers of a regiment. There is a long history of associating common soldiers with stupidity. As well as indicating a private citizen the Greek original for “idiot” had the specific meaning of a private soldier (see Xenophon’s “Anabasis”). The obvious origin of the word “goon” is Dragoon. We still use this word as a verb to describe the use of force to compel someone to do something.
    There is an objection that can be raised to this explanation. The regiment described in the Kipling story was a Regiment of the Line and not of Dragoons (mounted infantry). However, if the term came into common use it could well have been extended to soldiers in general. The derivation I am proposing at least contains some reasoned argument based on evidence, which is more than you can say for what is contained in current dictionaries.

Leave a comment