26 February 2013

Word : Goolies

OK, so let's have another word. I've just finished reading Filthy English: The How, Why, When and What of Everyday Swearing by Peter Silverton. Yes, it's interesting but not deep and quite light-hearted — as one might expect. One thing he said which I didn't know (or had long forgotten) is the origins of the word goolies. So today we bring you...

Goolies, or as the OED would have it gooly (in the singular).

Yes, in standard English it normally appears in the plural and means the testicles.

According to the OED, which hedges its bets slightly, it is "apparently of Indian origin", like from the Hindustani golí, a bullet, ball, pill. Curiously the first referenced citation is only in 1937 — I would have expected it to be around 100 years earlier. It was certainly a word I learnt quite early in my school days, so it must have been in regular North London usage by the end of the 1950s.

Usefully(?) gooly also means a stone or pebble in Australian slang. (Well again, so the OED says.)

What is also interesting is that the OED doesn't know the origin of the cricketing term googly (a ball which spins from leg to off when bowled by a right-arm bowler to a right-handed batsman) and which one might expect to be related to gooly. So who knows?

Anyway there's another Indian word you know, to go along with pyjamas and bungalow.

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