Sunday, June 1, 2008

The suprising origins of the word "Thug"



Last night I watched a History Channel special on the movie series Indiana Jones. The purpose of the show was to separate fact from fiction as it relates to the movie. While watching the show I was introduced to origin of the word "Thug". When you think of a thug what image comes to mind? Is it a Black or Brown man? Is he iced out with diamonds and wearing baggy pants? Most people think of a thug as living in a poverty stricken urban area ( Ghetto) in the United states. The origin of the word "Thug" couldn't be farther from its present meaning. The word Thug originates from an 800 year old cult called Thuggee in India. Thuggee were known for befriending travelers and killing them with the ultimate intention of robbing them. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, this cult is responsible for the death of 2 million unsuspecting travelers.

So the question arises, " How did we get from Thuggee to thug?" The Indian Cult and its practices were popularized and introduced to main stream Western Culture through books such as Confessions of a Thug by Philip Meadows Taylor (1839). Thuggee was also popularized by British Culture as Great Britain Ruled India from 1858 to 1947. In a way it bothers me that such a negative word like thug is largely associated with Blacks when it should be associated with Indians. How is it that we get the bad rap when they've been "thuggin" for 800 years! If we're going to play the name game then we need to call prostitutes Geisha Girls! If there are any words that you can think of that are unfairly associated with your or someone else's culture, please feel free to comment.
Ya Basta,
Malcolm

22 comments:

Phil said...

Mal,
Great post. Very Informative. The irony in this is that the Indian thugee disguised themselves while today, everybody wants to look like a "thug"

culturaltalk said...

I know. Its so strange that in the urban community being a thug is looked at as a positive. And Because so many Black males grow up with no father, they emulate the other males in their neighborhoods often convicts. But I still say that common sense should play a part in who you admire. If "Tyrone" dropped out of high school, soled drugs and went to jail, never making anything of himself, why would one strive to be like him? I guess all they see is the quick money tyrone flashes

Anonymous said...

It's black music and rap culture which has popularised the word thug in association with black people. Tupac and 'Thug 4 Life' come straight to mind.

Thug is a word many in the black community see as their identity and that is then brought to the mainstream through music and gang culture.

Does everything have to be someone else's fault?

lodock said...

Great post! Thanks for the info.

As for the word "thug", to me it is color blind. I am a white women and I don't judge people on the color of their skin. I didn't earn white... Anyway, a thug to me is someone who thinks they can bully their way into getting something and usually do not work for anything. Just my opinion.

In-form yourselves said...

Wrong.

The word "THUG-LIFE" came from the word Thuggie. The British colonized India and it was a group with in India who resisted the British and they were known as "Thuggies" ... The British used the word Thugs to refer to any group of outlaws defying oppression and exploitation of human life as labour.

Jerry Taylor said...

Jerry-
The reason this term is associated with blacks...it is predominately it is because the characteristics and behavior is the same... And to have leading figures of this group acknowledge of their own free will that it is what they are... Association bring upon assimilation. It become irrelevant as to color but culture... demonic cultic characteristics that one chooses to follow or accept. Product of environment, since of belonging, protection, recruited, etc... same demonic influence. Let not become so blind as to assume because of the origin...that in our modern society it suppose to make a difference... That evil regardless of it steaming from one culture/ethnic group.. when one began to identify with that lifestyle and is governed by it.. then you are branded and labeled by it! It started by people of dark skin following a cultic practice due to demonic influence.. So if the shoe fit...then you know the rest... Peace..LOL

Jerry Taylor said...

Jerry-
The reason this term is associated with blacks...it is predominately it is because the characteristics and behavior is the same... And to have leading figures of this group acknowledge of their own free will that it is what they are... Association bring upon assimilation. It become irrelevant as to color but culture... demonic cultic characteristics that one chooses to follow or accept. Product of environment, since of belonging, protection, recruited, etc... same demonic influence. Let not become so blind as to assume because of the origin...that in our modern society it suppose to make a difference... That evil regardless of it steaming from one culture/ethnic group.. when one began to identify with that lifestyle and is governed by it.. then you are branded and labeled by it! It started by people of dark skin following a cultic practice due to demonic influence.. So if the shoe fit...then you know the rest... Peace..LOL

John van Rooyen said...

I'm a white 60 year old and I just gotta say that I never heard or was taught that thug connoted a black or brown man. Simply it was a tough aggressive individual and presumably male probably engaged in robbing or beating up activities.

sarah lee said...

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. See the link below for more info.


#origin
www.matreyastudios.com

Anonymous said...

I went nuts when someone accused me of being a racist for using 'thug'. While i was not that up on current capture of the term into black culture and use by racists to refer to blacks men, I remember 'thug' from gangster movies when i was a kid. 'Thugs' were big strong men that enforced the boss's will will bare hands or baseball bats. They weren't black people, in fact were stereotyped as italians, which is my own ehtnicity. I demonstrated for Trayvon, i stood for the black man in new york who was choked to death by police. I resent being called a racist for using a word from my own life and my own culture because some other people redefined it.

Anonymous said...

Geisha are not prostitutes you racist moron.

Anonymous said...

I recommend researching Indian history a bit more. The synopsis of your "thug" history listed above lacks thoroughness and depth. Indians have not been "thug gin" for 800 years...true, some individuals were overt marauders, but many in the 19th century were simply challenging British "redistribution" (aka theft) of indigenous resources.

Anonymous said...

Prior to it use to identify specific blacks, the word was used to refer to mob enforcers. it is only during the late 80s and early 90s did the term transfer to blacks.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white 65 year old and never realized that the word thug was solely used in reference to African American males. I always thought of it as a term to describe a gangster or a tough guy. After reading this post I will not use the term to reference anyone again. It's tough to be politically correct and not offend a group or faction of people. It's even tougher to keep up with changing terminology.

GINGIE119 said...

The word that has been used in the United States for well over a century, and it wasn't delineated towards blacks. Any ne'er-do-well, troublemaker, thief, mobster, were known as thugs.

GINGIE119 said...

Pisha! It was not use just towards blacks, it's just as you said. Just because someone says "it is", does not make it so. There are theories out there, because in order for people to get advanced degree, they have to come up with something, even if it isn't true.

GINGIE119 said...

Not true. A thug is a thug, not a color.

Leslie Lim said...


Now this is the kinda of stuff i like to read about. Thanks for brightening my day

Jorcel
www.imarksweb.org

Anonymous said...

Generally, our ethnic group is the only one in the U.S. that brags on being thugs or gk glamorizes looking like one. When need to stop first!

Anonymous said...

It is OUR fault. It's like that N-word. We insist we can call each other that publicly and in the filthiest media, and then call it racist when others use it! Do we not brag about living the "thug" life.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and we should man up and own up to the fact that we chose to identify with being thugs. East Indian Americans don't and thus are not branded as such. We must stop self identifying with pathology and then getting outraged when others agree with our self identification. Yes, we are to blame and we should cease and desist identifying as thugs and glamorizing such behavior, or stop whining when others agree that are indeed thugs.

L A Davis jr said...

another label that is misplaced is the notion of "pimping". Long before it became popular to connect African American men with being pimps the Romans, French and English were pimping their women. Even the outlandish apparel were already being worn before African Americans personified the motifs.