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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > Korean War

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Korean War The Korean War (1950 - 53)

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  #1  
Old 22 Oct 08, 02:31
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"Gook:" Korean War or Philippine War Term?

Did this term originate in the Korean or Philippine war? According to historian Stanley Karnow, it was used during the American campaign against the Moros, but it came to prominence in Korea, and was later used in Vietnam.
Even if it died out after the Pinoy war, there is a good reason why it might have reborn in Korea.

The Korean for nation/national is the suffix "-guk;" hence Yongguk (Britain/British) Hanguk (Korea/Korean). America is "Miguk." Did GIs who heard Koreans murmuring "Miguk" when they saw these strange-looking, long-nosed troops, think they were saying "Me, gook"?

A number of British veterans I have spoken to, even today, talk about "gooks" (meaning Nork or Chinese soldiers, rather than simply Koreans) and also use it as an adjective ("gook soup," "gook hut," etc)

BTW, I am not condoning the use of what is now a racial pejorative, but am curious if anyone has any background on its etymology to add to the above.
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  #2  
Old 22 Oct 08, 11:18
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Not originally perjorative

I've never met any Morro war veterans, but suspect Karnow may have mixed up "Huk" and "Gook". I entered service in 1962, and all my instructors were either WWII or Korean vets, and all used the term "Gook" in the Korean war context. We had to always be on the alert because "Luke the Gook", i.e. Nork infiltrators, might be sneaking through our lines. I heard it used in Vietnam, along with Mamasan, Pappasan, and Babysan, terms which had been obviously brought from Okinawa with the first regular forces in 1965. When transliterated into English, Gook is presently rendered as "Guk" due to a change in Romanization systems adopted by the Korean government a few years ago. And don't forget "Waegook", "foreigner". It appears that "gook" suffered the same fate as "niggardly" when those ignorant or politically correct decided to condemn the term without ever researching its meaning or context.
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  #3  
Old 22 Oct 08, 14:43
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From what I read once, I'm pretty sure it was Korea, but I'm not 100% positive. I'll have to do more research.
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Old 23 Oct 08, 01:27
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I was taken with the Korean origin too and while it makes a good story it is sadly not true. American troops were using 'gook' to refer to Japanese during WW2. It originated during the Philippine-American War - where American soldiers claimed the locals were speaking 'goobly-gook'. The American Heritage Dictionary however argues that is perhaps an alteration of goo-goo - a native inhabitant of the Philippines. One other Philippine (Tagalog) word that has entered the English language from this war is boondocks - meaning mountain.

http://www.bartleby.com/61/62/G0196200.html

Last edited by apteryx; 23 Oct 08 at 01:32..
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  #5  
Old 23 Oct 08, 05:40
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Apteryx:

RE: Gobbledy-gook
Thanks, that is new to me.
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Old 23 Oct 08, 19:14
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Is there a Pacific veteran in the forum?

I grew up in a neighborhood filled with WWII vets, and never heard any of the Pacific vets refer to the "japs" or "Nips" as "gooks". Perhaps there is a pacific war vet in the forum somewhere who can step in and clarify the point. The Korean suffix "guk" for national, state, or nationality is an academic fact. And the term was endemic among Korean vets.
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Old 23 Oct 08, 21:22
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Just being doing a bit more research on this. The term used in the Moro war (nasty business, that) was "Goo-goo," not gook.

Good point about the term not being used in World War II - I must assume it originated in Korea, from the Korean suffix.
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Old 24 Oct 08, 08:06
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Interesting and informative. Speaking a (pitifully small) bit of Korean, I had always taken it to be a varient of "gook" (country-citizen thereof) that had been turned into a perjorative (sadly so, since as Andy S points out it is just a suffix ...Migkuk, Handkuk, Chungkuk. Don't worry about which particular Romanization is used since they are all wrong one way or the other.) While the Tagolog or gobbly-gook backgrounds remain possibilities, it looks like the evidence weighs in favor of a Korean varient.
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Old 24 Oct 08, 15:03
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Ny granddad was a fighter pilot in both War 2 and Korea. He always referred to the Japs as "nips or Tojo". When he talked of Korea he referred to the Chinese as "chinks" and he referred the Koreans as "Gooks". In all the times he talked he never referred the to one meaning another. from just what i picked up from my Grandpa, I am sure it originated in Korea.
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Old 24 Oct 08, 21:00
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In With The Old Breed Eugene B. Sledge refers to an old Okinawan woman who was wounded in the Okinawan campaign as a 'gook' to a corpsman who he had found to tend her, which is contrary to the Korean origin, but the thing is, there is no logical sense why he would use the term 'gook' as you guys have said about American soldiers in the American-Philippine War referring to Philippine insurgents as 'goo-goo' instead of 'gook'.
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Old 24 Oct 08, 21:11
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I believe Sledge also served in Korea............i had to read some of his work in a class on World War II
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Old 29 Oct 08, 02:40
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I came across two sources:

Bloomsbury Dictionary of Contemporary Slang Tony Thorne Bloomsbury Publishing 1990

gook n. a North Vietnamese or any Oriental. A derogatory term wildely used by American soldiers in the Vietnam war, but originationg much erlier, probably in the Filipino uprising of 1899, i which US troops referred to Filipinos as 'gugus' from a native word meaning tutelary spirit

Dictionary of American Slang Wentworth & Flexner(Ed) Thomas & Crowell 1960

gook Generically, a native of the Pacific islands, Africa, Japan, China, Korea or any European country except England; usually a brown-skinned or Oriental non-Christian: 1951 Gook was used during World War 2 at many widely separated stations to refer to natives Word Study May 7/1
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Old 29 Oct 08, 14:16
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Korea dictionary source

Apteryx, Down in the Vietnam section I dropped a note which included the excerpt below. The Romanization system of the 1950s would have spelt the word "Gook" instead of "Guk", but there is no change in pronounciation.

Quote:
In Minjung's Korean-English Dictionary "Essence", 4th Edition (2000), you will find ten pages of entries related to "Guk", and all referring to nations, national, nationality, statecraft, country, etc. (pages 227 to 236). Of course, the dictionary's explanations are in English, but the Korean words are in Hangul, i.e. Korean alphabet. The G looks like a carpenters edge, right angle down, the U looks like a capital T, and the K is the same as a G.
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Old 31 Oct 08, 20:50
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http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...s_/ai_12056599
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Old 31 Oct 08, 23:04
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Quote:
The origins of gook are mysterious, but the dictionary-makers agree that it is an Americanism….The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) adds "origins unknown" as its verdict regarding scholarly knowledge on the coining of the term….If gook did originate in the Philippines…If so, gook developed among troops who were probably connecting contempt for natives with contempt for "promiscuous" women and for poor people generally
Apteryx, If? Probably? Sorry, but I find ten pages of a Korean dictionary listing words with the suffix "gook" as far more persuasive that some leftist's rantings on the "possible" origins of the word "gook", which "Probably, etc, etc.". Most probably, the authors of aforementioned dictionaries connected researching the native language of some East Asian country where hundreds of thousands of Americans (and others) served as a task beneath their contempt. It has to be an Americanism, only Americans invent such usages...
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