Rooey, I if you check the archives you will find surprisingly enough that ‘hooligans’ has been discussed. Also, if you use the online resources suggested under ‘Words’ on the 'Resources' page, you will find that the etymology of ‘hooligans’ has been dealt with by ‘World Wide Words,’ ‘Word Detective,’ and ‘Wordorigins.org.’
But, out of the goodness of my heart I will reproduce the 'World Wide Word discussion' for you here to save you the effort of pushing a couple of keys. And as an added bonus, I’m also including a very interesting ‘Facts on File’ discussion, which is not available on the internet.
Incidentally, Rooey and Wiz, people like Michael Quinion of World Wide Words sift through the hundreds of stories from various sources including the grandmothers and second cousins who you seem to so love to get your information from (he gets thousand of e-mails a week – many probably from grandmothers and second cousins – with thousands of anecdotes and stories about word histories and he has been doing this for years), and being the scholar and expert in the field that he is, sorts through all this material, and filters out the garbage and the bogus and comes up with the best, most likely, most authoritative, and reliable word etymologies available. That’s why, I have to laugh when as you have said in your various rants that some people, such as myself, depend too much on books and reliable sources rather that listening to the guy the in the bar.
The reason it doesn’t make sense to say that we are ignoring some guy in the bar’s anecdote is that there are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of these stories, and which are we to believe? I would say that letting the pros sift through them (they listen to the guys in the bars for you!) with all their vast resources and letting them make the judgment is probably a wise course to take. What I try to do then, is to sift through as large a sample of what the experts have said as I can find, which by the way don’t always agree, and use my judgment and analytic skills to make a judgment of my own. So to say that one depends too much on what the experts say strikes me as being ridiculous. Its like saying that we are too dependent on brain surgeons for brain surgery or that we should go out and reinvent the wheel over and over with our limited resources when most of the work has already been done by folks who can do it far better than us just listening to one guy’s bullshit story.
As Erik Kowal suggested in an earlier posting, if you want bullshit stories and not reliable etymology you should take a look at http://www.snopes.com
and you will find more of it than you can handle. These are called ‘urban legends’ or ‘folk etymology,’ the after-the-fact bogus stories that sound so good, but have no basis in fact. And how would you know that they have no basis in fact on your own? – you wouldn’t. And that’s what etymologist do for a living. They separate the wheat from the chaff, the true from the false, which the average Joe on his own wouldn’t have a chance in hell of doing. And relying on historians for accurate histories does not strike be as an unwise thing to do.
[Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words
HOOLIGAN: In the distinctive language of British journalism, the English football fans who caused so much trouble in Marseilles variously “went on the rampage”, “ran amuck”, were guilty of “thuggish behaviour”, or “caused mayhem”. They were variously described in news stories as ‘louts, yobs, thugs and ruffians,’ but the word that was universally employed was ‘hooligan.’
It’s an odd word, which the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ says started to appear in London police-court reports in the summer of 1898. It became instantly popular, with several compounds appearing in newspapers within weeks (a sure sign of acceptance), including ‘Hooliganism, hooliganesque, Hooliganic,’ and the verb ‘to hooligan,’ of which only the first has survived. The long-defunct London newspaper the ‘Daily Graphic’ wrote in a report on 22 August that year, “The avalanche of brutality which, under the name of ‘Hooliganism’ ... has cast such a dire slur on the social records of South London”. The word soon reached literary works; Conan Doyle employed it in ‘The Adventure of the Six Napoleons’ in 1904: “It seemed to be one of those senseless acts of Hooliganism which occur from time to time, and it was reported to the constable on the beat as such”, and H G Wells included it in his novel ‘Tono-Bungay’ in 1909: “Three energetic young men of the hooligan type, in neck-wraps and caps, were packing wooden cases with papered-up bottles, amidst much straw and confusion”.
Several suggestions have been made about its origin that link it to the Irish family name variously spelt ‘Hooligan’ or ‘Houlihan.’ It seems there was a popular music-hall song of the period about a rowdy Irish family of that name; the OED comments that there was a series about a similarly-named comic Irish character that appeared in a periodical called ‘Funny Folks.’ Some reports say it was a mishearing of the term ‘Hooley’s gang’ but nobody has come up with a source for this.
However, a book by Clarence Rook named ‘Hooligan Nights,’ which was published in 1899, gives some helpful evidence. Mr Rook claimed that the word derives from a Patrick Hooligan, a small-time bouncer and thief, who lived in the Borough, on the south side of the river. With his family and a small gang of followers he frequented the Lamb and Flag public house in Southwark (not to be confused with the older and more famous hostelry of the same name across the river in Covent Garden). Mr Hooligan murdered a policeman, was put away for life and died in prison. Another writer, Earnest Weekley, said in his ‘Romance of Words’ in 1912: “The original Hooligans were a spirited Irish family of that name whose proceedings enlivened the drab monotony of life in Southwark about fourteen years ago”. It would seem from the other evidence that ‘spirited’ and ‘enlivened’ are euphemisms.
Whatever its origins, it quickly became established. At first this was most probably because of its novelty and news value. Later, as its sense shifted slightly, none of the possible alternatives had precisely the undertones of a (usually young) person, a member of an informal group, who commits acts of vandalism or criminal damage, starts fights, and who causes disturbances but is not a thief. Last week’s newspaper reports show that it continues to serve a useful purpose.
Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
HOOLIGAN: A proper name is the origin of this word for a violent roughneck, a fact conclusively established when British etymologist Eric Partridge brought to light Clarence Rook’s ‘Hooligan Nights’ (1899) in his ‘Dictionary of Slang.’ Excerpts from Rook’s sociologically valuable work follow:
“There was, but a few years ago a man called Patrick Hooligan, who walked to and fro among his fellow men, robbing them and occasionally bashing them . . . It is . . . certain that he lived in Irish Court, that he was employed as a chucker-out [bouncer] at various resorts in the neighborhood. Moreover, he could do more than his share of tea-leafing [stealing] . . . being handy with his fingers . . . .Finally, one day he had a difference with a constable, put his light out . . . He was . . . given a lifer. But he had not been in gaol before he had to go into hospital, where he died. . . . The man must have had a forceful personality, a fascination which elevated him into a type. It was doubtless a combination of skill and strength, a certain exuberance of lawlessness, an utter absence of scruple in his dealings, which marked him out as a leader among men. . . He left a great tradition . . .He established a cult.”
This man called Hooligan made the Lamb and Flag Pub in the Southwark section of London his headquarters, attracting a gang of followers around him. The entire rowdy Hooligan family, the nucleus of his gang—their real name was probably Houlihan—“enlivened the drab monotony of Southwark.” as another observer put it. The entry “Hooligan gang” is found on many police blotters in the late 1880s. ‘Hooligan’ has also been used as a synonym for a prison guard, screw, or hack.
Ken G – December 3, 2003
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)