Goon, Giddyup, Lousy, Well-heeled

Created date

November 5th, 2018
a drawing of a cowboy on horseback



While the word “goon” has a few uses, it originated as an alternative label for fools. “Goon” began as an abbreviated version of “gooney,” which came from the obsolete sixteenth-century term “gony,” meaning “simpleton.”

“Goon” started popping up in popular English around the early 1920s and eventually became a slang word for henchmen or hired thugs. Etymologists attribute this later development to the 1930s Popeye comic strip character Alice the Goon.

“He behaves like a goon when he’s drunk.” Or, “The mob boss ordered his goons to rough up the witness.”


The phrase “giddyup” may not have a grand, elaborate story behind it, but over the years, English speakers have used it so frequently that it warrants attention. Naturally, we all know “giddyup” as the classic rider’s command for his horse to start moving.

Scholars believe the phrase first appeared in 1909 as an extended version of the 1860s command “giddap,” which was likely a corruption of “get up.” The rest is Western history.

“Climbing into the saddle, he shouted ‘giddyup!’ and rode his horse into the sunset.”


Today, we use the word “lousy” to describe anything that is just plain awful. Whether it’s the way someone feels or how something tastes, “lousy” is implicitly negative, and with good reason.

Dating back to the mid-1500s, it quite literally referred to a bad situation, namely a lice infestation. When a person felt “lousy,” they actually experienced itching and discomfort, the result of repeated louse bites.

In a January 1669 entry, for instance, British diarist Samuel Pepys wrote how “…I have itched mightily these six or seven days; and when all came to all, [my wife] finds that I am louzy [sic], having found in my head and body above 20 lice, little and great…”

“The last time I had the flu, I felt lousy.”


A “well-heeled” individual is a person who has money and often hails from a privileged background.

There are several possible origins for the term, one of which refers to gamecocks with metal fighting spurs attached to their feet. The “well-heeled” rooster was presumably in an advantageous position.

But a more plausible inspiration for the idiom is the condition of a person’s shoe heels—that is, the assumption that the poor have shabby, worn-out heels, while the soles of the wealthy are clean and new. The rich are, therefore, “well-heeled.”

“Based on her clothing and her manners, it was clear she was well-heeled.”