Oxford Word of the Month – July: Hoon operation

hoon-operationHoon operation (also anti-hoon operation, hooning operation) – noun: a police campaign targeting dangerous drivers.

A 2015 media release by the Queensland Police Service stated:

Police are investigating after a vehicle allegedly evaded them and later crashed at Yatala following a targeted hoon operation late last night. (Australian Government News, 12 April)

The term hoon operation, a targeted police campaign against hoon drivers, has recently developed in Australian English, often with the variants anti-hoon operation or hooning operation. Anti-hoon operation was first recorded in 2002, hoon operation in 2003, and hooning operation in 2009.

The terms seem to be chiefly used in Queensland, suggesting the Queensland police use them to describe their campaigns against dangerous drivers:

In conjunction with the [school holiday] campaign Rockhampton police staged a hooning operation last Thursday night. (Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 15 April 2008)

Seven cars have been impounded after their drivers were allegedly drag-racing and doing burnouts on busy main roads. The vehicles were seized for 48 hours when traffic police patrolled the city in unmarked cars as part of an anti-hoon operation codenamed Brighton on Thursday night. (Cairns Post, 6 December 2008)

More recent evidence suggests such campaigns are also being held elsewhere:

A Bullsbrook man (19) had his car seized and was one of 11 people charged in a police anti-hoon operation in Perth’s northern suburbs last week. (Perth Advocate, 14 March 2012)

The term derives from hoon as a noun meaning ‘a young hooligan, especially one who drives a car dangerously or at reckless speed’, and as a verb meaning ‘to drive or ride recklessly, especially to show off’; both were first recorded in 1988. The word has a longer history in Australian English with several senses developing in the twentieth century. The first sense to develop was that of ‘a lout, an exhibitionist’, first recorded in 1938 and from which the car-driving sense likely has evolved. The other sense current in twentieth-century Australian English was ‘a pimp’, first recorded in 1950.

Hoon has been a productive word in Australian English: hoondom and hoonery refer to hoon-like behaviour, which can also be described as hoonish; and a hoon’s car is sometimes referred to as a hoonmobile. Aside from hoon operations as a means to curtail dangerous driving, some States have introduced hoon laws (also anti-hoon laws).

A number of terms relating to hoon will be included in the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary.

One thought on “Oxford Word of the Month – July: Hoon operation

  1. Pingback: Oxford’s Australian Words of 2015 | Oxford Australia blog

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