[Ads-l] instance of "gook" 1907

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 14 16:56:15 UTC 2019

Jon, the earliest I see in HDAS for the ethnic slur is actually from July
10, 1920 (in _The Nation_), and a check of the archives reveals that you've
antedated that twice, both in the Haitian context:

1918 _The Marines Magazine_  (Jan.) 41: H. D., 2d Regt., 1st Prov. Brigade
[Haiti]..."Freddie" Morgan, another "Hello girl" ['telephone
operator']...had to hire about six "Gooks" to carry all the packages he
received from Sears and Roebuck.

1920 _Fort Wayne News and Sentinel_ (Apr. 9, 1920) 18: The marines
maintaining order in Hayti call the insurgent Haytians "Gooks." The upper
photo shows some marines with a road gang of "Gooks" whom they have
captured in skirmishes near Port au Prince.

Also noted in HDAS, Mencken in the 4th ed. of _The American Language_
(1936) wrote that "The Marines in Nicaragua called the natives gooks,"
referring to the 1912 occupation of Nicaragua.

The ethnic slur may have grown out of the earlier freakish use of "gook"
thanks in part to a series of cartoons by Ferdinand Long in the New York
Evening World in 1904 titled "The Great American Gook." A few examples from
June 1904:


Long's comic strip was noted in a discussion of "gook" on the Straight Dope
message board back in 2004:

"The strip starred a nutty sort of robotic alien called a 'Gook'. The humor
of the strip was derived from the Gook being completely out of control and
at odds with civilized people. The strip created a short-lived fad of
applying the word gook to anyone with strange customs, anyone who didn't
fit in."


On Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 9:47 AM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> I'd very much like to see MW's 1901 ex. as an ethnic slur. The earliest
> HDAS ex. (applied to Haitians by U.S. Marines) is from 1921:
> 1921 _Brooklyn Daily Eagle_ (May 1) 22: “The Marines keep the bandits on
> the hop. The gooks only venture into the plains now when their spies tell
> them that the Marines are not in the neighborhood,” said Sergeant
> Friedberg.
> The word had some currency early in the 20th century as a synonym of
> "freakish person" or "dolt." (Cf. "geek."):
> 1911 _Charlotte News_ (Jan. 20) 1: Have you noticed this is the same gook
> who asked last summer "Is it hot enough for you?”
> Filipinos were referred to as "googoos" during the 1899-1902 war, and later
> as "googs." Ethnic "gook" presumably conflates freakish "gook" with
> dark-skinned "googoo." (Cf. also pop hit, "Just Because She Made Dem
> Goo-Goo Eyes" [1901].")
> On Thu, Nov 14, 2019 at 8:08 AM Amy West <medievalist at w-sts.com> wrote:
> > This is probably a distractor/nonce usage, but today's Upside Down World
> > of Gustave Verbeek on Go Comics shows a strip of his from 1907 where
> > there's an imaginary creature called a "gook" and limerick describing it:
> >
> > https://www.gocomics.com/upside-down-world-of-gustave-verbeek/2019/11/14
> >
> > Don't know if this is already in someone's files somewhere.
> >
> > MW gives 1901 as the date for the ethnic slur, and OED gives 1935
> > (citing American Speech), so while it may not be an interdating because
> > of the different referent, it may still be of interest, showing that the
> > referent wasn't as fixed yet, still susceptible of taking other
> > referents? I dunno . . .
> >

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