It is not given to many men to introduce a new word into the language. He claimed he got it from an editor, but he claimed a lot of things. All I know is that nobody ever wrote like that before, and lots of people have since tried and made fools of themselves, and now it’s all over.

Farewell and mahalo, Hunter.

(A good collection of Hunter Thompson links at Incoming Signals.)


  1. I read a post about how the expression “2 bits” came to mean a quarter. I heard another version which seems more likely than the “bits of gold” story. “There was a lawyer in the 1800’s who counterfieted dimes using pure silver. They were recognized as forgeries yet many found there way into circulation. They were called Bitts, after the forger. The quantity of silver used to make the dime was worth 12.5 cents, hence “2 Bitts = a quarter.”

  2. Not sure what that has to do with Hunter Thompson, but your information is wrong — a typical “urban myth” of language. The word “bit” in this sense goes back to the 17th century; see the Oxford English Dictionary for details.

  3. Charles Perry says

    I was a copy editor at Rolling Stone from 1968 to 1976, and Hunter Thompson always claimed he got the word “gonzo” from a fellow freelance writer, Bill Cardoso, who used the term in praise of one of Hunter’s articles. Presumably Yiddish gantse (German ganze), “total.” Cardoso said it was current in the Boston of his youth in the sense “extreme.”

  4. Oh, to have been a copy editor at Rolling Stone from 1968 to 1976! And here I am editing copy for journals like Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
    *sighs deeply*

Speak Your Mind