There are many sources given to indicate the origin of the term "gook"
be the Korean term for American that was then commandeered by American
The other explanation from the "The RANDOM HOUSE HISTORICAL
OF AMERICAN SLANG traces "gook" back before Korea, with the
written use being in THE NATION in 1920, referring to Haitians."
these explanations, I agree with Edward and Paula Trout in their
that the term "gook" came out of the American experience
the Philippine War, 1899-1902. My reading on the subject indicates
term evolved from an attempt by American soldiers to mimic the various
languages that the U.S. soldiers derisively described as "dog
The first impression of the language was "goo-goo" or "gugu,"
evolved into "gook." This term was quickly used to describe not only
language, but also the Filipinos themselves. After its origin in
the term "gook" was easily transferable to any situation
Americans against Asians.
are a variety of sources describing origin of the term "gugu" or
during the Philippine War, 1899-1902.
soldiers] addressed the Filipinos as 'gugus.'"
F. Line, a young private, described not only his love of home and
but also his delight at terrifying two Filipino civilians. 'They
the first goo-goos I ever saw turn white.'"
the Philippines from 1899 to 1902, U.S. troops waged a bloody conflict
Filipinos-they called them 'gooks'-who were resisting American
the jargon of American troops, as Stuart Creighton Miller has
in great detail, the Filipinos were 'treacherous
and 'treacherous gugus' (or goo-goos)-the latter reemerging in
War Two as 'gook'-and the fighting was called 'Injun warfare.'"
soldier of the Ninth Regiment, as the unit embarked on a particularly
mission to the island of Samar, commented that the island was "the
generations of U.S. troops in Asia were to pin derisive labels on
natives, like 'slopies' for Chinese and 'gooks' for Koreans and
The early Americans to reach the Philippines referred
Filipinos as 'gugus'-an epithet
So, we have "gook" used c. 1900 in the Philippines, and another
independent origin in 1945-1950 in Korea.
What was the etymological origin of the 1900 usage? It couldn't
have been the Korean language as in 1945-50. Was it some native
Tagalong word, or (I'm just speculating) perhaps from
German "guck," meaning "look."
Was there continued use of "gook" between 1910 and 1945? If so,
referring to whom? Can any connection be made between the c. 1900
Philippines and the Korean War?
I lastly propose that the use of "gook" in Vietnam was certainly a
carryover from the Korean War.
would confidently say that there's a continuum of use of the word in the
services, and that it wasn't a new thing to the men and women in
(or Vietnam, for that matter).
FACTS ON FILE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS traces it to
and "gu-gu", "military names for a Filipino during the
War." (No reference given for this)
RANDOM HOUSE HISTORICAL DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN SLANG gives a number of
for "gook" after 1920: 1921, with reference to the Philippines. 1927,
Filipinos. 1927, re: Nicaraguans. 1928: re: Filipinos. 1934, Mencken's
LANGUAGE says "The Marines in Nicaragua [1912-1913] called the
'gooks.' Those of Costa Rica are sometimes called goo-goos." 1935,
Filipinos and Spanish speakers in general. 1935, re: Hawaiians. 1940,
Filipinos. 1944, re: "South Seas Natives." 1944 (Ernie Pyle), re:
(But not, per Pyle, in a bad way). 1945: re: Italians (this time
a bad way).
(from YANK), "The Japanese...are known among GIs as 'gooks,' the GI
for all natives in the Pacific." 1946, re: Italians.
re: Japanese. 1947, re: Koreans. 1950, re: Koreans. 1951, re: Chinese
1951-1952, re: Koreans. 1952, re: Mexicans.
re: "Southern Europeans." 1954, re: "Melanesians." 1958, re:
or Yugoslavians.(!) 1959, re: the English(!!) 1959 (from
NAKED LUNCH), could be anyone. 1960, re: Indians (Asian).
re: the enemy ("It's a gook sub...it ain't one of ours"). 1963, re:
1965, re: New Zealanders.(!) 1965, "A gook in the purest sense
anybody what ain't American." 1967, re: Vietnamese.
(from S. J. Perelman, of all people), re: Indians (Asian).
of the Korean war and post-war occupation and operations in ROK
say that "gook" was a word appropriated from the Koreans. That is what
learned from those vets and that has always been my understanding of the
agree with Mark Conrad's last comment: "gook" certainly was a carryover
in my experience other terms were more prevalent than "gook" in
examples being "slopes," "slopeheads," "dinks," "zips" and maybe
or two I can't remember, for all Vietnamese. The enemy was referred to
Viet Cong, Cong, V.C., Victor Charlie, Sir Charles and maybe one or two
can't remember. Many referred to all enemy personnel as Viet Cong,
actually V.C. or North Vietnamese Army (NVA), which was actually
Army of Vietnam (PAVN). I am reminded from my exchange last year
a Special Forces veteran who simply referred to all the enemy as Viet
Not that it made much difference if you were on the receiving end of
the movie, 'Platoon', Director Oliver Stone and Marine script and
consultant Dale Dye have the soldiers saying things like;
gooks everywhere"; and, "They're speaking gook".
always figured that the use of "gook" in Vietnam was derived from G.I.'s
had previously served in Korea and the other terms hadn't caught on.
personally, after being overwhelmed by the cultural shock I was trained
cope with, I developed cultural fatigue along with complete frustration
was occasionally heard referring to "slopinese" and "zipanese," but
as "gook." There were always ROK troops around to help make the
clear for me.
are some really interesting comments about "gook" possibly
in the Philippines or even Haiti.
of Vietnam 1969-1970