Antedating of "Gung Ho"

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat May 24 18:12:24 UTC 2008

I looked at the Sept. 24, 1941 Oakland Tribune article on Newspaperarchive and it appears to be correctly dated.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Cohen, Gerald Leonard [gcohen at MST.EDU]
Sent: Saturday, May 24, 2008 1:55 PM
Subject: Re: Antedating of "Gung Ho"

First, thanks to Fred for the new information.  I find it problematic, though (no fault of Fred's).  Marine Lt. Col. Evans Carlson introduced the words and the philosophy behind them to his Raider  Battalion in Feb. 1942.  It absolutely hops off the page to see mention of "gung ho" appearing in Sept. 1941, i.e., prior to Pearl Harbor and prior to Carlson's first speech to his men in Feb. 1942.

Carlson used "gung ho" in all seriousness, although it later became a light-hearted slang term. Carlson had been the sole U.S. military observer of the Chinese Communist Eight Route Army in its resistance to the Japanese in the 1930s, and he was deeply impressed with that army's philosophy on motivation/morale.  When WWII came, he applied its principles to his own unit.

As for his selecting the term "gung ho," he evidently misunderstood "gung ho" when he was in China.  The term already existed in the 1930s but in an entirely different meaning; it was an abbreviated form of eight Chinese words which together meant "Chinese Industrial Cooperative. Carlson somehow thought the words referred to the army philosophy on motivation/morale.

It would be good to get ahold of the Sept. 24, 1941 Oakland Tribune to see if the "gung ho" quote is really there and just what its meaning is.

Meanwhile, for anyone interested, here's an article I wrote on the term: "'_Gung Ho_ Revisited,"' in: _Studies in Slang_, Part IV, pp. 1-50. by Gerald Leonard Cohen.  Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang. 1995.

Gerald Cohen

On Fri 5/23/2008 Fred Shapiro wrote:

The OED's first citation of "gung ho" with that spelling is dated 1943 (with the spelling "kung-hou," they have a 1942 citation).  The site gives a citation for "gung ho" from the Oakland Tribune, Sept. 24, 1941, obtained presumably from Newspaperarchive or Google News Archive.

Fred Shapiro

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