Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 16:16:27 -0500
From: Allan Metcalf AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Since you brought it up, Barry . . .
The authors of AMERICA IN SO MANY WORDS made a real flubber when they
chose "goo" for 1902. I have "goo-goo" and "gooey" from the 19th century.
perhaps the authors should explain that we were aware of this, and say so in
the book. Here's the entry -
The 20th century got off to a gooey start. There was goo in the colleges and
goo in the inventor's workshop. A survey of slang at a hundred colleges and
universities, published in 1900, found goo used at twenty of them to mean
"any liquid" and at one, Elmira College, "anything sticky."
The American inventor Lee De Forest (1873-1961), later called "the father
of radio," must have had those meanings in mind around the year 1902 when he
invented a paste to coat the ends of wires and named it goo, as reported a
year later. He also invented and patented the Audion, forerunner of the
vacuum tube long used in radio and television. But while the Audion is
obsolete, his goo has stuck with us.
Gooey was also reported in the 1900 college survey, but only from Ithaca
College, where it was explained as "Weird, making one creep." By 1903,
however, gooey had adhered to goo and took on the meaning "sticky, not easily
In fact, goo words seem to have been the rage in the 1900s. Goo-goo eyes,
probably developed from the baby's goo-goo of the 1860s, is first recorded in
1897. Googly eyes, large and round, date from 1901. Those words are
apparently unrelated to the liquid or sticky goo, but they seem to have
become entangled. Sometimes goo itself, when especially gooey, was called
goo-goo, as early as 1903. During World War I it began to be called goop as
Not that "automatic" couldn't have been the word for 1902. Another great term
for that year is "foolproof." Pick up a copy of the book at your local
bookstore and create your own alternate list! - Allan Metcalf