Gung ho /ˈɡʌŋˈh/ is an English term, with the current meaning of "overly enthusiastic or energetic". It is thought to have originated from a catachresis of Chinese 工合 (pinyin: gōnghé; lit. 'to work together'), acronym for Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (Chinese: 工業合作社; pinyin: Gōngyè Hézuòshè).[1][2]

The linguist Albert Moe studied both the origin and the usage of the term in English. He concluded that the term is an "Americanism that is derived from the Chinese, but its several accepted American meanings have no resemblance whatsoever to the recognized meaning in the original language" and that its "various linguistic uses, as they have developed in the United States, have been peculiar to American speech." In Chinese, concludes Moe, "this is neither a slogan nor a battle cry; it is only a name for an organization."[3]

The term was picked up by United States Marine Corps Major Evans Carlson from his New Zealand friend, Rewi Alley, one of the founders of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. Carlson explained in a 1943 interview: "I was trying to build up the same sort of working spirit I had seen in China where all the soldiers dedicated themselves to one idea and worked together to put that idea over. I told the boys about it again and again. I told them of the motto of the Chinese Cooperatives, Gung Ho. It means Work Together — Work in Harmony."[4]

Later, Carlson used gung ho as a motto during his (unconventional) command of the enthusiastic 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, leading to other marines adopting the term to mean overly enthusiastic. From there, it spread throughout the U.S. Marine Corps hence the association between the two, where it was used as an expression of spirit and into American society as a whole when the phrase became the title of a 1943 war film, Gung Ho!, about the 2nd Raider Battalion's raid on Makin Island in 1942.[5] The artist Billy Joel also helped immortalizing the expression in 1982 in his anti-war hit single "Goodnight Saigon" where he sang: "And we were sharp, as sharp as knives, and we were so gung ho to lay down our lives".

See also


  1. ^ "Yingzi and "Gung Ho"". 4 May 2003. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  2. ^ "gung-ho". The Mavens' Word of the Day. Random House. 26 January 1998. Archived from the original on 30 July 2001.
  3. ^ Moe, Albert F. (February 1967). "Gung Ho". American Speech. 42 (1): 19–30. doi:10.2307/454114. JSTOR 454114.
  4. ^ Burke, Don (20 September 1943). "Carlson of the Raiders". Life. Vol. 15 no. 12. p. 58. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  5. ^ Kung, Jess (18 October 2019). "The Long, Strange Journey Of 'Gung-Ho'". NPR. Retrieved 4 June 2020.