• goon •
Pronunciation: gun • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Slang) 1. A booby, lame-brain, nitwit, nincompoop, dimwit, pinhead, dunce, dunderhead, blockhead, numbskull, oaf. 2. A hired thug whose job is to intimidate specific people or groups of people.
Notes: Today's Good Word is an absolute lexical orphan: no derivational relatives. What we think of now as juvenile delinquents, in the 1940s were sometimes called goonlets, but that word hasn't stuck, so must be considered a nonce word.
In Play: This word in its first sense does not make any reference to weight: "Who is the goon over there trying to impress Tiffany Lampe with his tattoos and eyebrow rings?" In this second sense it refers to hefty thugs that usually accompany a mobster: "Jimmy the Window never appears in public without his goon squad."
Word History: Today's Good Word is a shortened form of gooney "a booby, simpleton, moron", an expansion of earlier gony. It might be related to Scots Gaelic gonyel "stupid fellow" but, if so, the trail ends there. The gooney bird was so named because the awkward way it takes off and lands makes the bird look stupid. The word goon referring to a tough or thug was first recorded in 1938 in reference to union "beef squads" used to intimidate workers in the Pacific northwest. This usage probably was based on Alice the Goon, a muscular simpleton in the Popeye comic strip. She also was the inspiration for British comedian Spike Milligan's The Goon Show. (Chris Stewart never associates with goons but did recommend the word as today's Good Word.)