Green’s Dictionary of Slang

coon n.

[fig. uses of SE racoon, typified as a cunning creature. Used orig. in non-racial senses (emphasizing only cunning), the meaning swiftly became unequivocally racist, and used as such in Aus. too, where it described Aborigines; note American Dialect Society List 17/12/01: ‘The daughter of William Lloyd Garrison (the great American abolitionist), while tending to the needs of emancipated slaves on the Gullah Islands, anthologized Negro spirituals. She also made notes on the Gullah dialect. “Coon” was the name that the ex-slaves called each other, and she indicates that it is the word “cousin” as expressed through the dialect. [...] As with many terms that members of ethnic communities call each other, they descend into the pejorative’]

1. (US) a Whig.

[US] (ref. to 1840s) Schele De Vere Americanisms 51: Coon [...] having been first introduced into polite language in 1840, when Harrison was elected President, and the skin of the animal was used as a kind of badge, in conjunction with cider and log cabins drawn about the country on wheels [...] The whigs had no sooner adopted the emblem than they became known throughout the Union as Coons, their policy was denounced as ‘Coonery’.

2. (US) a Native American.

[UK]T.H. Gladstone Englishman in Kansas 206: He was ‘took aback some, just a spot; he’d never sot eyes on such a salvagerous set of coons; he was nary lick afeared, not by a long sight’.

3. (orig. US) a sly person, a cunning fellow.

[US]Maumee City Exp. (OH)1/5: ‘Just like him. I knew him by that,’ cries a knowing coon.
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick in England II 15: He was a knowing coon, was officer.
[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature I 71: Them Newfoundlanders [...] are the most knowin’ coons in all creation.
[UK]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 201: Hang me if he ain’t a greedy coon; he’s taking them [i.e. girls] both with him.
[UK]Marvel XV:377 Jan. 8: You’re a smart young coon, blest if you ain’t!
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 14 Aug. 1/5: Cop all coons, yclept the trainers / [...] / Every one he rooks the other.
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 17 Aug. 12/2: ‘Blowed if you ain’t the artfullest young coon as ever I seed’.

4. (US, also koon) a person, esp. a rustic, a peasant.

[US]Polit. Examiner 8 Dec. 4/1: I was always reckoned a pretty slick koon for a trade [DA].
[UK]Marryat Diary in America II 232: In the Western States, where the racoon is plentiful, they use the abbreviation ‘coon’ when speaking of people.
[US]G.F. Ruxton Life in the Far West (1849) 66: What! Meek, old ’coon! I thought you were under?
[US] ‘How Mike Hooter Came Very Near “Wolloping” Arch Coony’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 151: Lay thar, ole Methodist, till I learn this coon some sense!
[US] ‘The County Jail’ in I. Beadle Comic and Sentimental Song Bk 55: We got up next morn at break of day, / And went to hear the parson pray; / Oh! wasn’t he a jolly old coon?
[US]A.J. Leavitt Body Snatchers 5: I sent a coon after him.
[US]F. Francis Jr Saddle and Mocassin 42: Don’t listen to that coon; you get up.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 21 Dec. 8/4: We’re brought before the beak next day, / And a barrel-bellied coon / Sends Susy up for seven days, / And me for half a moon.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 12 July 3/1: You are a funny coon [...] You must have timed your dog [...] when under the influence of mountain dew.
[US]F.P. Dunne Mr Dooley in Peace and War 227: He sint me a box iv soap that made me smell like a coon goin’ to a ball in a State Sthreet ca-ar.
[UK][perf. Marie Lloyd] Talk about a Big Responsibility [lyrics] But he got on immensely till lady dropped her fan / And he stooped to pick it up - the silly coon.
[US]H. Hapgood Types From City Streets 37: All coons look alike to me. Dere’s no difference between a gal and a lady.
[UK] ‘Excelsior Up To Date’ in C.H. Ward-Jackson Airman’s Song Book (1945) 27: There, in the tree-top, that young coon / Perched like a punctured kite balloon.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 29 Dec. 4/6: Silly coon, / He’s tampered with the bally clock.
[UK]N. Marsh Death in Ecstasy 208: He’s a wise coon!
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 254: Looks like the hounds treed the coon after all. I guess that’s nature. The coon ain’t got a chance.
[US]D. Goines Swamp Man 87: Zeke, ol’ coon, you sure ’nuff let that old man know what size can to hang on his tail.

5. (orig. US, also coonhead) a highly derog. term for a black person.

[[US]‘Andrew Barton’ Disappointment I iii: racoon [negro]: I must go dis instant and settle de place of meeting. placket: Can you leave me so soon, my dear Cooney?].
[US]Ohio Democrat (Canal Dover, OKH) 14 Nov. 3/3: The coon is dead and lowly laid. / His ears are cropped his body flayed [...] The coney heard Pat ease his sowl — It made him in his coffin howl.
[US]G.F. Ruxton Life in the Far West (1849) 5: A sight, marm, this coon’s gone over.
[US]L. Oliphant Minnesota and the Far West 283: She [a boat] belongs to that darned picayunish old ’coon, Jim Mason, and he’ll run her till she sinks or busts up.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 191/1: The songs we knew was ‘Old Mr. Coon,’ ‘Buffalo Gals’.
[US] ‘The Dandy Broadway Swell’ Bryant’s Songs from Dixie’s Land 46: They may talk of dandy darkies, / But they never seen this coon / A promenading Broadway, / On Sunday afternoon.
[US]Fort Worth Democrat-Advance 27 Jan. in Miller & Snell Why the West was Wild 453: ‘Mysterious Dave’ [...] charged with stealing a gold chain and ring belonging to Georgia Morgan, a copper-colored coon who is proprietress of the famous ‘Long Branch’ house of Dallas.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 4 Apr. 11/3: (of an Aborigine) This childlike coon happens to be the groom at a local hotel, and his boss, being desirous of visiting the recent St. Patrick’s Day’s sport, told him to slip out and get him a ‘trap’ immediately. Accordingly, the innocent ‘slipped’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Aug. 6/7: The Yankee papers have given us such doses of Dixon [a black boxer] [...] that the very atmosphere smelt of Coon.
[US]Witchita Dly Eagle (KS) 5 Sept. 9/5: Sop yo’ just mosey mighty soon / An quit yo’re trflin wid dis coon.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 100: Roars of laughter rang through the theatre of the club at the [...] indescribable spectacle now presented by the coon.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 7 Nov. 1/1: [He] discovered none there like Kelly’s coon.
[UK]Bateman & LeBrunn [perf. Kate Carney] Liza Johnson [lyrics] Now he’s learnt ‘My Tiger Lily’ and ‘The Little Rainbow Coon’ / Sings about his ‘Rosey Posey’; he’s gone balmy on the tune.
[US]‘Billy Burgundy’ Toothsome Tales Told in Sl. 51: He had been approached [...] by a ‘coon’ of ebony hue.
[UK]Sporting Times 13 May 8/1: Three coons, not the imitation article, but real down-south negroes [...] were a big attraction at Romano’s.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 27 Mar. 2nd sect. 11/3: Langford and Flynn came together in a return contest and [...] the coon beat Flynn badly, severely punishing him, and sending him out in I the eighth round.
[UK]Wodehouse ‘Extricating Young Gussie’ in Man with Two Left Feet 31: It was not a very pathetic song, being all about coons spooning in June under the moon.
[UK]N. Lucas Autobiog. of a Thief 247: He called up the coloured man [...] While the search was proceeding the ‘coon’ pinched ‘Evan’s’ pocket-handkerchief.
[US]C. McKay Banjo 78: Monkey you’ grandmother’s blue yaller outa the red a you’ charcoal-black split coon of a baboon moon! [Ibid.] 183: I know you think a coon is a Negro like Banjo and Ginger, but you’re fooling yourself. They are real and you are a coon – a stage thing, a made-up thing.
[US](con. 1917–19) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 465: Joe and Larry... got kidding some young coons in a bumboat.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 232: May you go blind and dumb, you ignorant coon.
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 71: As he creamed my wife’s cunt, the coon said, / ‘I could fuck this until she was dead!’ / As he plugged up her trough, / I jerked myself off; / ‘If that’s how you feel, go ahead!’.
[US]L. Hughes Laughing to Keep from Crying 115: Take your eyes off that white woman, coon.
[Aus]F.B. Vickers Mirage (1958) 161: Hi Freddie! What about getting your coons to truck my mob?
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 31: They rob my soul out of me. They leave me hiding away—a coon, dinge, nigger, boogie, shine. They disfigure me.
[UK]P. Theroux Murder in Mount Holly (1999) 53: Decided to have a word in private with the manager [...] Finally went in. You guessed it! A coon in the chair! What could I do?
[UK]A. Bleasdale Scully 27: He was a nig-nog’s kid – some coon from down the Dingle in Town.
[UK]B. Chatwin Songlines 90: Run over a coon in Alice Springs and no one’d give it a thought. But a white man ...!
[US]P. Beatty White Boy Shuffle 5: A long cowardly queue of coons, Uncle Toms, and faithful boogedy-boogedy retainers.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 73: Mongrel territory where dynasties of socialists still called black men coons.
[UK]Guardian G2 21 Feb. 15: I have sat on football terraces and heard screams of ‘you fucking coon’.
[US]C. Carr Our Town 93: Back in 1963. After they passed the civil rights, stating coonheads were allowed to date the whites. [Ibid.] 260: Their next rally — Fort Wayne, ‘on the Coon’s birthday’ — was shaping up to be even worse.
[UK]D.S. Mitchell Killer Tune (2008) 78: If there’s a coon anywhere, we can smell him in the air.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 159: I don’t recommend it, spending the night with [...] smelly coons.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 8: Let’s go and roast us some coon.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 223: How the fuck am I expected to find her? Walk down Granby Street [...] placard tied around me, saying: Lost. Cooness. Any idea, lad?

6. a clown, a fool, the image is of a ‘chocolate coloured coon’.

[UK]Paul Pry (London) 15 Aug. n.p.: That soft-headed, chicken-hearted noodle [...] should try and behave himself better in company, as it is not very agreeable to hear a young man make use of fast language, or use an oath every time he speaks. He must be an empty-headed coon, or he would not do so.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 102: In God’s name, John Henry Menton said, what did she marry a coon like that for? She had plenty of game in her then.
[UK]M. Anthony Green Days by River 173: Tiger! You dam’ silly idle coon!
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 460: What’s a girl like this doing with a little coon like you?

7. (US black) used non-pejoratively of a fellow black person.

[US]H.G. Carleton Thompson Street Poker Club 9: ‘Look hyar, yo’ coon, what yo’ got dat yo’se sittin’ so brash?’.
[US]F. Dumont Darkey Dialect Discourses 5: Yoh entertains yoh frien’s in de kitchen and you has a lot of wuthless coons gallivantin’ ’round yoh.
[US]N.I. White Amer. Negro Folk-Songs 350: [reported from Durham, N.C., 1919] Once there was a travelling coon / Who was born in Tennessee, / Made his living stealing chickens, / And everything he could see.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 83: At last he give up and said: ‘Well, you got de ole coon at last.’.
[US]W. Fisher Waiters 179: Some coons can an’ some coons can’t.

8. (Aus.) an Aborigine.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 27 Mar. 2nd sect. 11/3: A gory go took place [...] recently between a Soustralian coon and a local biffer who had ideas one time of tackling Tommy Burns for the heavyweight championship of the world.
[Aus]R. Fitzgerald Pushed from the Wings (1989) 66: It’s a tough job, son, being Premier, especially when you’ve got to humour the coons.
[Aus]P. Temple Bad Debts (2012) [ebook] I’m going to kill this coon, then I’m going to kill that bitch.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 81: She always said no to Abos and policemen [...] ‘I have never turned it on for a Coon or a copper.’.

9. a member of a blackface ‘minstrel’ show .

[UK]A. Brazil Madcap of the School 245: ‘ We’re not to be nigger minstrels exactly. Coons are different. Of course, the songs are all about Sambos and Dinahs, but white people can sing them with quite as great effect’.

10. (S.Afr.) a black South African.

[SA]P. Slabolepszy Sat. Night at the Palace (1985) 15: You check that coon’s face, hey?

In derivatives

coonery (n.)

stupidity, esp. as enacted by black people.

[US]G. Tate ‘The GOP Throws a Mammy-Jammy’ Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 103: Percy Sledge was the only entertainer of the evening who embarrassed me with coonery.
coonish (adj.)

1. (UK juv.) stupid.

[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 22: I thought I should a-died for shame one minit, and the next I felt so coonish I had half a mind to fly at the Speaker.
[US]Sun River Sun (MT) 4 Sept. 5/5: If you would have your sons and daughters notable, don’t scrimp them in the matter of names even if it does sound slightly coonish.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] coonish n. behaving stupidly.

2. (US) angry, aggressive.

Democrat & Sentinal (Ebensburg, PA) 12 Feb. 1/3: I thought I should a died from shame one minit and the next I felt so coonish I had half a mind to fly at the Speaker.
coonmobile (n.)

(US) a flashy automobile, supposedly preferred by African-American owners .

J. Ellroy Blood on the Moon [ebook] It was a highfinned, chopped and lowered 1947 Cadillac, what Crazy Tom would have called a ‘Coon-Mobile’.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] ‘You ain’t drivin’ my Caddy out the Jersey Shore with that smelly guinea fish in it’ [...] ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead in this coonmobile’.

In compounds

coon-assed (adj.)

see separate entry.

coon bottom (n.) (also coon hollow) [var. on black bottom under black adj.]

within a larger urban area, that part recognized as home to the black community.

[US]Dly Union & American (Nashville, TN) 10 Oct. 2/5: There is a little cross roads place in this county known by the name of ‘Coon Bottom’.
Report of the Chief of Engineers U.S. Army 2 47: Just below foot-bridge on high road to Coon Bottom, (‘Concord’ on maps).
[US]Richmond Planet (VA) 25 Nov. 8/3: While her son [...] was playing in coon bottom he was accidentally shot in the ankle by Frank Williams (colored).
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 313: Another section of this ‘Satan’s Mile’ which began at Taylor street was called ‘Coon Hollow,’ on account of the large colored population.
[US]Maledicta IX 52: Coon Bottom; Coon Town n [C] Black community within an urban area.
coon chaser (n.)

(US) a white man who pursues/has sex with black women.

[US]Lantern (N.O.) 23 July 2: Bud is the biggest coon chaser in all America.
coon dick (n.) [dick n.1 (5), i.e. racist stereotyping ]

(US) an illicitly distilled spirit, compounded of ‘grapefruit juice, cornmeal mash, beef bones and a few mo’ things’ (Zora Neale Hurston, Mules & Men, 1935).

[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 21: ‘What is coon dick?’ ‘Aw, Zora, jus’ somethin’ to make de drunk come. Made out uh grape fruit juice, corn meal mash, beef bones and a few mo’ things.’.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Seraph on the Suwanee (1995) 823: What you didn’t swap off for coon-dick [...] Case of canned tomatoes or corn for a gallon of moonshine.
coonhead (n.)

see sense 5 above.

coon juice (n.)

(US) illicitly distilled whisky.

(ref. 1862) Little & Maxwell History of Lumsden’s Battery C.S.A. 10: Leaving Tuscaloosa, Aug. 16th, for one week they were on the road to Chattanooga and all sorts of a time was experienced. Some ‘coon juice’ ‘tangle-foot’ was occasionally in evidence and caused some exhilaration and subsequent depression and some insubordination temporary.
[US] in DARE.
Few. the Loud (U. of Colorado) 2 [Internet] Maybe at another party somebody asked you if you’d like to try some ‘Coon Juice’ and it tasted so good that you ended up getting plastered before you realized there was even alcohol in it.
coon-lover (n.)

(orig. US) a derog. term, as used by racists, for those who are seen as insufficiently hostile to blacks.

[US]J. Breslin World of Jimmy Breslin (1968) 89: New Yawk coon-lover.
[US]D. Goines Swamp Man 53: I say old Red is a coon lover.
coon’s age (n.) (also dinosaur’s age, dog’d age, donkey’s age, hen’s age)

(US) a very long time; often as in a coon’s age [the life-span of a SE racoon, although the phr. is inevitably seen as linked to sense 5 above].

[US]Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) 11 Nov. 2/4: I guess [...] that it will be a ‘coon’s age’ before they try themselves with such a writer agagin.
[US]W.T. Thompson Major Jones’s Courtship (1872) 129: Mary soon got over her skare, but the way she’s mad at cousin Pete won’t wear off in a coon’s age.
[US]W.T. Thompson Chronicles of Pineville 172: We won’t hear the end of this bis’ness for a coon’s age you see if we do.
[US] ‘How Sally Hooter Got Snake-Bit’ in T.A. Burke Polly Peablossom’s Wedding 74: That’s the best red eye I’ve swallered in er coon’s age.
[US]N.O. Weekly Delta 23 Nov. p.1 in A.P. Hudson Humor of the Old Deep South (1936) n.p.: Boys, sez I, look here! We’ve been on this dug-out ’bout a coon’s age.
[US]G.W. Harris Sut Lovingood’s Yarns 189: That wer the fust spessamin ove a smokin mad gal I’ve seed in a hen’s age.
[US]H.L. Williams Three Black Smiths in Darkey Drama 4 27: He was gone a coon’s age.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 52: Wall, Pete, whar have you been? I hav’nt see you this coon’s age.
[US]J. Harrison ‘Negro English’ in Anglia VII 276: Ain’t seed you iner ‘coon’s age = haven’t seen you for a long time.
[US]J. Fox Jr ‘The Passing of Abraham Shivers’ Hell Fer Sartain and Other Stories n.p.: Hit ud take a coon’s age, I reckon, to tell ye.
[US]H. Green The Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 33: Well, I do declare, I ain’t seen yuh folks in a coon’s age!
[US]O.W. Hanley ‘Dialect Words From Southern Indiana’ in DN III:ii 116: coon’s age, n. Long time.
[US]W.M. Raine Brand Blotters (1912) 189: Dad burn yore ornery hide, I ain’t see you long enough for a good talk in a coon’s age.
[US]L. Pound ‘A Second Word-List From Nebraska’ in DN III:vii 542: coon’s age, n. A long time. ‘I’ve not seen you in a coon’s age’.
J. London The Valley of the Moon (1914) 219: I ain’t had a smoke of decent tobacco or a cup of decent coffee in a coon’s age.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 2861: It’s a dog’s age since I met anyone new.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 106: Best fried chicken I’ve tasted for a coon’s age.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Breach of Promise’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 24: Now we do not see him once in a coon’s age.
[US]J. Conroy Disinherited 165: Took me a coon’s age t’ git on to it.
[US](con. 1820s) W.E. Wilson The Wabash 225: I ain’t heared a real, honest-to-God, knock-down-an’-drag-out, reputation-blastin’ jaw-fest among good friends in a coon’s age.
[US]J.M. Cain Mildred Pierce (1985) 375: Say, I haven’t seen you in a coon’s age!
[UK](con. 1943) A. Myrer Big War 55: She could have done her bit by answering a Goddam letter once in a dinosaur’s age.
[US]A. Hine The Unsinkable Molly Brown 15: The Binks boys hadn’t wrassled with Molly in a coon’s age.
[Aus]D. O’Grady A Bottle of Sandwiches 199: Haven’t seen ’em in a coon’s age.
[US]D. Ponicsan The Last Detail 77: Hell, I haven’t been in a brawl in a coon’s age.
[US]R. Coover Public Burning (1979) 615: The 30th First lady of the Land and the prettiest in a coon’s age.
[US](con. 1940s) C. Bram Hold Tight (1990) 135: We haven’t seen each other in a coon’s age.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 95: Because of coon’s disparaging use, most people today steer clear of the many phrases in which the word has appeared, e.g. coon’s age.
(con. 1917) M. Childress A World Made of Fire 142: Come out and see me! Been twice a coon’s age since the last.
[UK]J. Mowry Six Out Seven (1994) 66: Hell, boss, that there ole steamer ain’t fired in a coon’s age.
[US]D.H. Sterry Chicken (2003) 7: That’s the best ideas I’ve heard in a donkey’s age.
[UK]S. Kelman Pigeon English 18: He couldn’t stop for donkey hours.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] That nigguh had heart?! An’ I be somewhere dead or doin’ dinosaur numbers.
coonshine (n.) [i.e. racial stereotyping + moonshine n. (2)/SE moonshine]

(US) an all-night party.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive 113: Coonshine, n. (1870s–1900s) this term originated among white speakers, meaning a night party.
coonskin (n.)

see separate entry.

Coontown (n.) (also Coonsville, Coonville)

a derog. term for the black section of a town or city.

J.J. Wood Wilderness and the Rose 25: ‘Where’d you git that?’ ‘Up at Coontown; bitterest stuff you ever saw; some mout think thet th’ remidy was worse’n th’ disease’.
[US]C.W. Gardner Doctor and the Devil 52: Most of the vice [...] is to be found in the settlements in it known as ‘Coontown’ and ‘Frenchtown’.
[US]George R. Wilson ‘Ma Genuine African Blonde’ [lyrics] They had a Ragtime ball and picnic down in Coontown.
[US]Irving Jones ‘I Want a Filipino Man’ [lyrics] There’s a heap of trouble brewing up in Coon-town.
[US]Rising Sun (Kansas City, MO) 29 Jan. 1/3: ‘Coonville jamboree’ selection.
Falls Tribune (Falls City, NE) 22 Dec. 7/6: ‘Hot Time in Coon Town’. The funniest of all Negro shows.
[US]Broad Ax (Salt Lake City, UT) 16 Sept. 4/6: Death of Billy Johnson of [...] ‘The trip to Coon Town’.
[US]T. O’Brien Going After Cacciato (1980) 138: Coonsville, MoTown, Sin City.

In phrases

old coon (n.)

(US) a shrewd individual.

[US]A.B. Longstreet Georgia Scenes 216: To be sure I will, my old coon — take it — take it, and welcome [DA].
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick in England II 37: A knowin’ old coon, bred and born to London, might see the difference, but you couldn’t.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 43: Colonel Dodge [...] boasts himself ‘a ’cute old ’coon from Mississippi’.
[UK]Punch 1 Feb. n.p.: Such an all-fired smart old coon / As William Henry Seward.
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service 349: He was a tough old coon, this Johnny Hart!
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (4th edn) 436: ‘He’s an old coon,’ is said of one who is very shrewd; often applied to a political manager.