Saturday, February 24, 2007

Two countries divided by a common language

Oscar Wilde said this about the UK and the US, but he could have been talking about Australia: last night, watching TV in a hotel room in Melbourne, I puzzled over the use of the word "hoon". Any guesses? It's an abbreviation of "hooligan". Hoons are a problem, with their souped up cars and their attacks on the innocent with golf clubs in dry grass-lined suburban streets; so there's a "dob in a hoon" helpline to report the miscreants in your own back yard.


Mr Creighton said...

I have no evidence for this, but I doubt that hoon derives from an abbreviated form of "hooligan". I think it is probably a corruption of Irish Gaelic, just as the Australian "chook" (meaning chicken)is a deliberate mangling of Gaelic. Interestingly, the slangy practice of referring to women as "Sheilas" probably has its roots in Gaelic too - at one time, genitally explicit female fertility statues were scattered across Eire (the Virgin Mary has since replaced most if not all). The Gaelic name for 'em was abbreviated and corrupted to Sheila. In colonies that were 90% male, I'm sure it was possible ta be homesick for nekkid women, stone or otherwise.

LottieP said...

Good point - a heedless assumption by me there. Wikipedia sheds no light, though, but is interesting on this subject (check out the lists of the types of cars driven by hoons, as well as a completely unsubstantiated claim about the attractiveness of hoons' girlfriends which someone is bound to remove any second) and that of the Sheela Na Gig - which I vaguely remembered as a PJ Harvey song.

Mr Creighton said...

The Good Burghers of Wikipedia must have long since removed the doubtless slighting reference to hoon's girlfriends. The types of cars ostensibly favoured by hoons was interesting and odd; seems the revhead and the hoon have found some common ground at last. The hoon mates of my salad days would have been puzzled and possibly affronted at the idea of a Japanese auto being a prime hoon-mobile - until they heard the magic incantation, "V8" - the Rosetta stone for hoon and revhead alike.