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1921, "stupid person," from gony "simpleton" (1580s), of unknown origin, but applied by sailors to the albatross and similar big, clumsy birds (1839); sense of "hired thug" first recorded 1938 (in reference to union "beef squads" used to cow strikers in the Pacific northwest), probably from Alice the Goon, slow-witted and muscular (but gentle-natured) character in "Thimble Theater" comic strip (starring Popeye) by E.C. Segar (1894-1938). She also was the inspiration for British comedian Spike Milligan's "The Goon Show." What are now "juvenile delinquents" were in the 1940s sometimes called goonlets.
: goon squad/ his goon tacticsnoun
[mid-1930s+; origin uncertain; perhaps entirely fr the name of Alice the Goon, a large hairy creature who appeared in E C Segar's comic strip ''Thimble Theatre'' in 1936, but who had a very gentle disposition; perhaps connected with Frederick Lewis Allen's term for ''a person with a heavy touch,'' that is, a literary or stylistic touch, found by 1921; perhaps fr gooney]