Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What is a mook?

A friend recently asked me what exactly a mook is. When I first heard the term mook I thought it was short for monkey. I didn't like it that much. It seemed like a racist and pejorative term.

Then I remembered that I had heard the word before in older movies and period books. Especially the old gangster movies. It wasn't uncommon to hear people referred to as mooks or stupid mooks. In my mind it meant someone who was stupid and lacked manners. "Wipe your shoes before entering you mook." "Look at those mooks causing trouble."

Last year I found myself wondering about the precise definition of mook. Being the victim of a PC culture I worried that it might actually be racist or nasty. Thanks to the internet age I didn't have to open a dictionary I went to their website.

Merriam Webster defines mook as a slang term from the 1930's. It refers to a foolish, insignificant, or contemptible person. Wiktionary defined it as a disagreeable or incompetent person. Pretty close to what i thought it meant.

I also found reference to it as a movie/game term. It is a slang term for the hordes of standard-issue, disposable bad guys whom the hero mows down with impunity. Also called "goons," "scrubs," "drones," "flunkies," "pawns," "crunchies," "popcorn," "grunts," "minions," "lackeys," "underlings," "henchpersons," and "Cannon Fodder;" in Japanese, the word is "zako." Sometimes, Mooks will act more as comic relief than an actual menace, having their jeeps flipped in the air, tripping back into their own traps, etc. (The Trade Federation droids in the Star Wars prequels are a good example here.) Still kind of close to what I thought mook meant.

Urban Dictionary gave some interesting definitions too. The most popular definition of it on UD is:

A term coined by Douglas Rushkoff in an episode of PBS's "Frontline" entitled "The Merchants of Cool." Mooks are archetypal young males(teens-early 20s) who act like moronic boneheads. They are self centered simpletons who live a drunken frat-boy lifestyle(or are frat-boys). Examples can be found anytime someone watches "Jackass." Rushkoff claimed that the media glorifies this ideal and stifles natural self expression, however, some people might argue teenage boys have always acted like morons(its actually a long-standing stereotype). Nonetheless, standardized conformist dumbass-culture behind a veneer of exhuberance is a scary notion indeed. Opposite of Mooks areMidriffs; oxymoronic innocent skanks who are modeled after Britney Spears.

The second most common UD definition is:

Coined in the Scorsese film, 'Mean Streets', meaning an arsehole or loser.

The third definition on UD was the most familiar:

(noun) 1: A male adolescent or young adult exhibiting an unpleasant, self-centered attitude, formed during a sheltered upbringing. 2: One who revels in their own ignorance.

All of those definitions have something in common. They refer to someone who is stupid,or acts stupidly, and tends to be rude.That is what I base the use of the term mook on. It is someone who acts stupidly and rudely. Someone who by their words and actions shows themself to be a fool. Especially someone who seems to take pride in their ignorance.

Mooks are universal. It doesn't matter what country you are in you WILL find mooks. You may run into more mooks in one place than another but you will find them.


  1. I was using "mook" as a term to define the idiots that shamble into my life looooonnnnggggg before I came to Korea, so I never thought of it as rascist in any way. It just referred to a big dumbass, like the definitions you found. It fits really well wherever you are.
    And I just remembered another one, from the "Beverly Hillbillies." Granny used to refer to mooks as "goomers."

  2. in prison slang a mook is a homosexual male
    most likely a black muslim gay man

    1. Never having been in prison I have no idea if this is true or not. a google search doesn't show anything to support what you said.

    2. This guy's full of shit.

    3. I had a student (16) tell me that calling someone "mook" is same as calling someone "gay" this is a challenge to disect because their homophobia culture also uses "gay" as a derogatory term for anything that is challenging, not interesting, "stupid", boring, dull, or just in general not desirable. While "mook" by defenition may not be a homophobic term it could very well have become one while we weren't paying attention.