Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Guest

Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Guest » February 20th, 2003, 4:40 pm

Hello,

is anybody out there? ;) :)

Can anyone explain why 'stooges' are called stooges when they are meant to be secret helpers from the audience? I came up with the question because in german it's the same: They are called 'Fliege' which means 'fly' and I don't know why (that rhymed) - maybe because it can whisper in your ear? Just a thought.

Thanks for your help!

Harry

Michael Edwards
Posts: 516
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Washington, DC

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Michael Edwards » February 21st, 2003, 5:15 am

An interesting question! While the origin of the term -- initially used to refer to an assistant -- is uncertain, there are some who believe it has evolved as an alteration and shortening of the word "student" (with the mispronunciation STOO-jent.

Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 843
Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » February 21st, 2003, 10:48 am

Michael is right in one sense. T

his definition had been around since 1932 and in the 40s when "learners" (students) at divisional headquarters were called "stooges."

Let's not forget the connection to "stool-pigeon" or "stoolie," one who who divulges "info," usually on the sly or secretly because of the dangerous, betrayal aspect. An informer. (Stooges for mentalists are secret informers.)

Comics who hammer spectators, making them the butt of jokes, call these victim "stooges."

In some books, "stooges" were another word for "stand-ins." In magic parlance, this makes sense because a "stooge" is a SECRET stand-in or deputy in the audience.

In bomber crews during WW II, a "stooge" was a spare man, a standby member of a crew.

"To stooge around" simply means to hang out, idly.

Then there's the THREE STOOGES.
What's the link there?

Onward...

Michael Edwards
Posts: 516
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Washington, DC

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Michael Edwards » February 21st, 2003, 12:18 pm

As for stool pigeon, the etymology is a bit more complicated. Today, we think of a stool pigeon (or stoolie) as an informer...but when the phrase first appeared in the United States some 170 years ago, it generally meant a person who was used as a decoy to entice criminals into a trap.

This usuage has a long history. While most contemporary accounts note that the term comes from the practice in hunting of tying or nailing a dead pigeon to a stool to act as a decoy, that's probably a bit of a stretch. The most puzzling aspect is why this particular bird and why this particular piece of furniture? Another approach is to follow the trail of the word "decoy" rather than the described act. One form of "decoy" is the archaic term stale, which , in turn, may well have evolved from the French estale, in which a pigeon was used to entice a hawk into a net. Sound like we're getting closer? The term shows up in English in the early 1400's and within the next hundred years was being used not only to describe such a hunting lure, but also to describe an individual who entrapped another person. By this time it was also beginning to be applied specifically to a pickpocket's accomplice. [By the way, we know this variation in another form today -- as the verb "stall" as in "stalling for time" which is what the pickpocket's assistant does to give the thief a chance to apply his/her trade.]

Inasmuch as "pigeon" has been a term applied to a fool for almost five centuries, one might ask why not the Three Pigeons rather than the Three Stooges? Perhaps there's a link in the theatrical connection to the term "stooge" which can refer to the partner in a comedy team who feeds lines to the other comedian. Remember the original name was "Ted Healy and His Stooges."

Jon Racherbaumer
Posts: 843
Joined: January 22nd, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: New Orleans

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Jon Racherbaumer » February 21st, 2003, 3:35 pm

Hey!
Where else can magicians get such info?
That's why 9 out of 10 doctors consult the Genii Forum.
Thanks for the added stuff, Michael.

Onward...

User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Hollyweird
Contact:

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Pete Biro » February 21st, 2003, 6:49 pm

Again, thank Al Gore (a stooge?) :D

Seriously, I just found out about a female magician doing the Linking Rings in a Turkish Harem a loooooooooooooong time ago... another wonderful link (pun) for my "history of the Linking Rings" work in progress... stay tooned :rolleyes:
Stay tooned.

User avatar
Pete Biro
Posts: 7125
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Hollyweird
Contact:

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Pete Biro » February 21st, 2003, 10:52 pm

In the early days of auto racing a young mechanic would be a "stooge" for a team (working on a crew).

Nowadays, tho', that job is called "Gofer" -- ie; go for this, go for that... gofer... :D
Stay tooned.

Guest

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Guest » February 22nd, 2003, 12:36 am

Michael, Jon, Pete,

thank you very very much, it is great to learn about the origin of words, what they mean and meant and in what context they were used. Etymology is interesting, look at the change of the word 'stooge'. Amazing.

You helped a lot by answering!

Cheers,
Harry

Guest

Re: Stooges, Why are they called that way?

Postby Guest » February 24th, 2003, 6:39 pm

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Stooge- 1913, "stage assistant," of uncertain origin, perhaps an alteration of student (with the mispronunciation STOO-jent), in sense of "apprentice." Meaning "lackey, person used for another purpose" first recorded 1937.

This is the most I've been able to find. Might as well add it to the mix.
Royston
The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.


Return to “Magic History and Anecdotes”