You may have seen the recent news story about a Russian punk rock band, Pussy Riot, that was charged with hooliganism for staging a performance critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hooliganism? You can be arrested for that?
While you have no doubt heard of young thugs being referred to as hooligans in this country, to be arrested for being one sounds a bit silly to us: “What’r you in for?” “I’m a hooligan.” Sounds like something you should be sent to bed for without supper, not incarcerated. In Russia, however, hooliganism is basically what they call political dissent or some other disrespectful act that the authorities have no tolerance for. It’s the adult version of acting up.
The Oxford English Dictionary states that the word’s origin is uncertain. It first appeared in newspaper articles of the late 1890s in loose reference to a gang (Hooley’s Gang), and it was also mentioned in a popular song of the day that told of a rowdy Irish family – the Hooligans. There was also a popular comic strip in 1900 that featured a hapless hobo called Happy Hooligan, so the name has several connections to this time period.
It occurred to me that “Hooligan” would be a most unfortunate last name to have (not unlike “Hitler.”) So I did some research. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the last name “Hooligan” is held by less than one hundred people, and possibly not by anyone (a full list of names is not available, only aggregates).
I do know this – if my last name were Hooligan (I am Irish, after all), I’d be soooo tempted to name my firstborn “Happy.”