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What's a Magoo? A Magoozle? A McGoozle?


"Let the story of the saving of Magoo stand as a classic example of government by the people ... "

-- President John F. Kennedy (The Duluth Mongoose, below)


"" may not be the best choice for the domain name of this website. "Magoo" is a mispronunciation of our family name. We pronounce it McGue, to rhyme with dew, not do. The other common pronunciation of McGough in the United States is McGoff. Other families pronounce it McGuff. A few families in the United States, especially in Alabama or Kentucky, however, do pronounce it McGoo or magoo, and sometimes magyoo. See Pronunciation of McGough.

In the domain name, "magoo" is used to mean a big shot rather than a custard pie.

The Dictionary of American Slang compiled by Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner (Second Supplemented Edition 1975) defines a magoo:

n. 1 A custard pie used by actors to throw at one another in comedy scenes. Theater use. 2 An important person; a big shot. 1946: "The book [J. Weidman’s Too Early to Tell] brims over with thinly veiled lampoons of Washington magoos, professional bandwagon liberals, and glib slogan makers." Wm. DuBois in N.Y. Times Bk. Rev., Dec. 1, 9/5. 1949: "[Paul Douglas] has yet to meet up with Darryl Zanuck, chief magoo of the studio." T. M. Pryor, N.Y. Times, Apr. 24, 5/6. Not common. Cf. McGoo.

The same dictionary defines the noun McGoo: n. Sex appeal. Some c1930 use. Obs.

A Dictionary of Catch Phrases—American and British from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day by Eric Partridge (Revised and Updated Edition edited by Paul Beale, Stein and Day 1986), at page 102, elaborates:

give us a little of the old McGoo! is, Berry tells us in 1942, a US film director's 'way of asking a star to display some sex appeal, as with exposed limbs'; † by 1945, W&F in 1960 curtly dismissing it as 'Sex appeal. Some c. 1930 use. Obs[olete].' Who McGoo was, I don't know; there seems to be some reference to the US slang, goo, a sticky mess, itself perhaps from glue.

"Mr. Magoo" is listed as an euphemism in Woody's World of Penis Euphemisms.

The New Dictionary of American Slang by Robert L. Chapman (1986) defines the noun magoo:

1 n Custard pie, esp as used in comic stage and movie scenes 2 n An important person; = BIG SHOT: Darryl Zanuck, chief magoo of the studio—TM Pryor

A Dictionary of Slang from The Cornelian (1877–78) says that in the last quarter of the 19th century, students at Cornell University used "magoo" to mean "irrelevant and deceitful small talk." (This is not the meaning of "magoo" in our domain name.)

"Magoo—Slang . GIs gave to San Miguel Beer, also referred to as 'Mother's Milk' or "good old San Magoo." (San Miguel is a Philippine beer.)

Magoo has also been used to mean an "old man driving a car too slowly" according to Slang U, a 244-page dictionary of contemporary slang by Pamela Munro, et al (Paperback - February 1991).

In March of 1997, I received a blustery letter from the president of UPA Productions of America in Beverly Hills, California, claiming that they are the creators and owners of Mr. Magoo copyrights and trademarks, and demanding that we either abandon the name magoo or assign it to them. They threatened to take "all legal action available." I politely declined this ill-founded request, pointing out that the word magoo had been in use, both as slang and as a family nickname, long before Quincy Adams Magoo* was invented, that I am neither nearsighted nor in the entertainment business, and that there was no chance of confusion. I have heard nothing further. The creator (he lists himself as co-creator) of "the quirky and comical cartoon character Mr. Magoo" was the famous Hollywood screenwriter Millard Kaufman, who was born about 1917. As well as being the creator of Mr. Magoo, Kaufman wrote the movie scripts for Bad Day at Black Rock, Take the High Ground, and Raintree County; and was a board member of the Writers Guild of America.

*A bit of trivia: Quincy Magoo's middle name was Adams. See Animation Alley, trivia question #36. John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States (b. July 11, 1767. d. February 23, 1848), was buried in Quincy, Massachusetts.

See Quincy Magoo in Wikipedia and When Magoo Flew on U-Tube.

A search of the Internet will find dozens of urls that use the word magoo. Use of magoo as a name for pets is particularly pervasive. Below is a small sampling of these names from the Internet.

Mr. Magoo's Floors and More, of Mountain Home, Arkansas, is owned and operated by Steven McGough.

"Magoo" of Toronto, Canada (, is a well known and respected singer, songwriter, event host, performer, and recording artist. He formed a rocking little band called the Nu Magoos, and enlisted the playing talents of Kirk Elliott. Kirk & Magoo have been bringing musical entertainment to audiences, young and old, since 1981. Magoo has hosted the Blue Skies Music Festival for twenty four years. He is a past president of the Ontario Council of Folk Festivals.

There is a British rock band that calls itself "Magoo." Among their albums is one called "The Soateramic Sounds of Magoo."

Glenn McGough of Kitchener, Ontario Canada, has posted this Internet address:

For a story of the peaceful death of Mr. Magoo, a twenty-year-old cat, see The End of the Line by jane davis ©1999. For a touching poem to another cat named Mr. Magoo, see A Lyric to Mr. Magoo by Amos Chiarappa.

In A Pirates Life, one of her many entertaining children's poems, Jazzy XXX of Australia includes the lines:

I have a Parrot on my shoulder, like all Pirate captains do,
He calls me Captain Deadeyes and I call him Magoo.

Magoo is the top dog of Cregg Castle, which is west of the river Shannon, 9 miles north of Galway City near the village of Corrandulla, Ireland. Magoo is the house guard dog and official greeter at Eagle Spirit Village, Stevens County, Washington.

A little dog named Magoo, a golden retriever puppy, gained national attention for his plight—a cataract requiring immediate surgery. His plight led to the establishment of the Magoo Medical Relief Fund at the Hooterville Pets Safehaus, Woodinville, Washington—a suburb of Seattle.

Kinky Friedman, a mystery writer who lives in a little green trailer in a little green valley in Texas, writes of his "small black dog named Mr. Magoo." "By popular demand," a puppy of Brittany mix, rescued from the Leavenworth, Kansas Animal Shelter by Cynthia Williams of Brittany Rescue, was called Mr. Magoo—Magoo for short. On February 28, 2001, a poodle named Mr. Magoo was available for adoption from the SPCA / Humane Society of Prince George's County, Maryland.

Michelle and Jean Brunelle of California own an impressive looking English Bulldog named Magoo. For a short story of a dog's life, see The life and times of Brewser Magoo of Kearny NJ. Pictures of a Dalmatian named Magoo are on Ozzispot Dalmatians. Mary Phyllis Nolan of southwest Virginia owns a dog named Magoo who is part Golden Retriever and part St. Bernard.

One dog with a purple tongue was called Magoo because, shortly after hobbling down the long driveway of the family that would adopt him:

"We slathered you up with stinky, sticky mange cream, and what a pathetic site you were. Our little boys were totally grossed out by your appearance and kept saying, "Yuck! He is so GOOEY!" Hence your name: "Magoo".

Here is an ASCII symbol for Mr. Magoo: ~O-O~

Mr. Magoo was the name of the only mongoose resident of the United States. Here is an excerpt from The Duluth Mongoose, ©1965 by Jack Denton Scott:

"When the Duluth Municipal Zoo accepted the gift of a little mongoose who had come from India, it was unaware that mongooses are forbidden entry into the United States by strict Federal Law.

"In no time at all Mr. Magoo's comic poses, tea-drinking habits, obvious intelligence and courage made him a local celebrity. Then suddenly the Federal authorities ordered his immediate execution. The next day 10,000 angry people showed up at the zoo to protest. The newspapers took up the battle and from coast to coast thousands of citizens bombarded Washington with pleas for mercy. This book tells how Mr. Magoo became the only mongoose resident of the continental United States.

"Later when President Kennedy heard about these events he remarked, 'Let the story of the saving of Magoo stand as a classic example of government by the people ... ' ''

Brian Kretchman has published a poem to his stuffed buzzard, Mr. Magoo: "My Buzzard."

Among the animal companions of Suzanne Edwards of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, is Mr. Magoo, a 13 year old Amazon Parrot who is certain he is a dog.

Although the word magoozle is not defined by the usual dictionaries of slang or catch phrases, Seattle author Bill Speidel uses "The Great Magoozle" as a chapter heading to describe the successful campaign to persuade Congress to pass an act to establish the Territorial Government of Washington in 1853. In his book Doc Maynard, The Man Who Invented Seattle (1978), at page 92, Speidel defines a magoozle:

"A magoozle ... is a method by which we get things done in America. It’s neither legal nor illegal, but it gets the job done."

See: magoozle in the Urban Dictionary.

Shelby Scates, a Seattle Writer, in his excellent book Warren G. Magnuson and the Shaping of Twentieth Century America (University of Washington Press 1997), at page 72, attributes the invention of the word McGoozle to Howard "Mac" MacGowan, a one-time Seattle journalist and life-long friend of Senator Magnuson:

"Mac worked for Magnuson as the I&R platoon works for an infantry regiment: he was political intelligence and reconnaisance, inventor of the word—but not necessarily the technique—of the 'McGoozle,' a political deal that leaves both parties happy or at least one of themhappy and the other not mad." (page 72).

Scates entitled chapter 13 of his book "War, Politics, and McGoozle." See page 109 for the "perfect magoozle."

There are several Magoos in the US census and other American and Canadian records, but none that I have found in Irish records. Here are a few examples:

Steward Magoo is listed in Bucks and Lancaster Counties, Pennsylvania, 1682-1825 Land Records: Date: Oct 24, 1700. Residence: Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Land Record ID: 23527. Description: Witness Book-Page: 3-31. Property: 3 acres and road rights. Remarks: Deed. Peter White of Burlington County, West Jersey, yeoman, and Elizabeth, his wife, for £7 paid by Anthony Burton, Bucks County, yeoman, 3 acres and allowance for a road, part of 11 acres which Joseph English, father of said Elizabeth by deed dated 20/12/1695 granted to Peter White. Ackn: 24/10/1700. Rec: 22/11/1700.

In the 1790 US census of Worcester county, Maryland, a John Magoo is listed (Series M637, roll 3, part: 2, page 149). in a household consisting of one free white male over 16, one free white male under 16, and one free white female.

Nathaniel Magoo was an immigrant who arrived in New York in 1823 according to the Passenger and Immigration Index, 1500s-1900s. (Source: Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index, 1820-1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. 290 pages, page 163.).

The US census of 1869 lists, in Watertown, Jefferson county, New York, a John Magoo, age 45, a laborer, who owned real estate wroth $200, and who could neither read nor wrier; his wife, Mary Magoo, age 40, born in Ireland, who could neither read nor write; and their children, all born in New York: Julia, age 5; Margaret, age 3; and John, age 7 months.

The 1900 US census of Wyoming shows in Weston county, district #3, Cambria, a J. H. Magoo, a day laborer, age 44, born in October of 1854 in Illinois to a father born in Illinois, married for 26 years; his wife, Larry (?), age 40, born in December of 1859 in Illinois to a father and mother, born in Illinois, and a son Frank Magoo, a day laborer, age 20, born in March of 1880 in Illinois; and a daughter, Leve (?) L, S.?). a day laborer, age 19, born in Illinois in April of 1881.

The 1920 census of Perry township, Monroe county, Indiana, lists E. E. Magoo, 43 years old, born in New York to parents born in New York, a professor at a university, living on Atwater Avenue; his wife Edith Magoo, age 31, born in Ohio, a teacher at a University; and three children all born in Michigan: Donald, age 9; Robert, age 7; and Louise, age 2 years and 10 months. Living with them was an aunt, Carrie Magoo, a 51 year old widow, born in New York to parents who were born in New York.

William Magoo is listed in the Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s, as living in the Talbor district of Ontario, Canada, in 1840. (Source: District Marriage Registers of Upper Canada, Talbot District 1837-1857, Provincial Archives of Ontario, Toronto.)

The 1840 marriage of Hanah Magoo at Woodhouse, Ontario, is listed in the Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s
Event: (Source: District Marriage Registers of Upper Canada, Talbot District 1837-1857, Provincial Archives of Ontario, Toronto.)

Here is a posting on

Magoo in Canada
Posted by: Babs Magoo (ID *****5946) Date: July 14, 2002 at 08:28:58 of 56011


I'm looking for information on an ancestor of mine called, I believe, Hannan Magoo. He was probably born in the middle of the eighteenth century in the Winnipeg area (so I've been told) and was rumoured to have produced (to much fanfare) early translations of the works of Dante, in particular 'The Divine Comedy', and the libertine Casanova (I imagine he was a sort of 'fin de siecle' language expert).

My father uncovered some interesting information during the liberation in WW2 but the trail went cold, especially during the regeneration that followed after.

Since then, it hasn't exactly been a promenade trying to find more material but it would be great to compile a short album and throw some light on his secret history.

What's a Magoo? A Magoozle? A McGoozle?
Updated January 17, 2010  
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