What Does Hooning Mean?
And how do burnouts play a role?
First, it happened when you were sitting in traffic. In an attempt to see anything other than folks screaming at their steering wheels or singing to themselves, you spotted a car with a sticker that said “Hoonigan.” No big deal. People put all kinds of weird things on their vehicles.
Then it happened again at a car show. A few cars rolled in with that same strange sticker. Next thing you know, this alien phrase is all over the place. It’s on people’s clothing, it’s all over Facebook, and you can’t hit YouTube without seeing some clip of “Hooning.”
But what does it mean? Where did it come from? Should we avoid it? Calm down, it’s nothing to be afraid of. In fact, you might embrace it in full once The Drive's squad of brainiacs fills you in on the details.
What Is Hooning?
Hooning derives from the term hoon. The same is true for hoonigan, which happens to be the name of a racing division and lifestyle brand founded by Ken Block and Brian Scotto, initially located in Park City, Utah. The brand defines the term hoonigan as, “a person who operates a motor vehicle in an aggressive and unorthodox manner, consisting of, but not limited to, drifting, burnouts, donuts as well as acts of automotive aeronautics. One who hoons.” Hooning simply means to commit any of those acts.
Yep. Things just got weird. This whole time that you’ve been doing burnouts to impress your preferred human and show off your talent, you’ve been hooning—which effectively makes you a hoonigan.
When Did Hooning Originate?
The use of hooning in this respect sets its roots in Australia. The use of the term hoon dates back, presumably, a few hundred years. Sid Baker recognizes the word in The Australian Language as a term meaning "fool." That book was published in 1966 and referred to how it was used during the early 20th century and the years leading to it.
In recent times it's more commonly used as a form of Australian slang to refer to someone who uses a car in something of a foolish manner to capture others' attention. So, when cops there started calling reckless drivers "hoonigans," it wasn't a positive descriptor.
Although it might not have originated in the U.S., the story of how it grew in popularity here is still rather interesting. As you can guess, Hoonigan Industries is the driving force behind its use on this side of the hemisphere.
The Hoonigan brand got its start back in 2010, the year that the term hooning would also appear on Ken Block's famed Ford Fiesta. The sticker that "started it all" made its debut in the Gymkhana Three video and read, "Hooning is not a crime." Yep, it was a direct reference to the infamous Santa Cruz "skateboarding is not a crime" stickers.
Hoon and its associated words have a life of their own here and aren't slung around as ways to take shots at teens who are expressing themselves. In fact, Ken Block told Podium Sport, "we started to use the word as a term of endearment for having fun with the car." Considering Ken Block's many career successes and the Gymkhana YouTube videos' wild popularity, it's no wonder why the definition now has a positive twist in car culture today.
Is Hooning Even a Real Word?
Hooning and hoonigan both sound like silly made-up terms. Without any formal definition existing in the dictionary, it would appear that they’re nothing more. For the most part, that is true. These are just slang terms thrown around on the street.
But that doesn’t mean they’re words that only the in-crowd of car enthusiasts understands. Funny enough, parts of Australia passed legislation in 2004 that would work to control hooning, and these laws were gradually adopted throughout the country. These laws are officially known as Hoon Laws.
Furthermore, these laws aren’t solely limited to automobiles. They’ve been gradually increasing in power to restrict hoonigan activities featuring other vehicles such as boats, jet skis, and other vessels. So, yes, hoonigan is considered a real word worldwide, even with no formal definition.
Who Started Hooning?
So, who started hooning? Naturally, we have to partially tip our hats to Ken Block and Brian Scotto, the Hoonigan brand's founders. After all, we probably wouldn't be familiar with the word here in the states if it weren’t for their efforts, but that doesn’t mean they started it.
The fact of the matter is that a hoonigan is anyone who uses a vehicle in an unorthodox manner. That means the folks who were responsible for starting NASCAR by running moonshine, the drag racers whose efforts resulted in the birth of the NHRA, and even your grandpa who took the family sedan off-roading were all hoonigans.
That means the title of the first hoonigan is up for debate. If you had to ask us who we believe should wear the crown, we'd have to say the one and only Walter Arnold, who received the first speeding ticket in 1896. We're limiting ourselves to historical accounts, though, and there's no way to tell whether or not folks were getting a little tricky with their quadricycles in the day.
Watch Hooning in Action
We can spend hours talking about hooning, but this video pretty much sums it up in just over two minutes. Trust me. It’ll get you feeling all kinds of wonderful things.
FAQs About Hooning
Based on popular search results and our own experience, these are a few commonly asked questions about hooning.
Q: Is hooning a crime?
A: Unfortunately, hooning is an act that's frowned upon by the law. Unless you're on private property, performing wild antics with your car is bound to leave you scrambling for your papers at Johnny Law's request. Sure, the way the term is used can simply be defined as enjoying your car, which can mean anything. But, in the traditional sense, it's not legal on public property or roadways.
Q: What is the Hoon Legislation?
A: Hoon Legislation is a set of laws used in Australia that are originally in place to punish those who drive their cars recklessly in public settings. If you're caught driving recklessly, speeding, burning out, or creating smoke with your vehicle in any other law, you may be convicted of a hooning offense. These laws have also recently been expanding to limit reckless use of jet skis, boats, and other vehicles.
Q. Can hooning damage your car?
A. It's possible. Any time you're using a vehicle in a somewhat extreme and/or reckless manner, it's possible that it could get injured, but it's not guaranteed. The one thing that is guaranteed is that many forms of hooning, like burnouts and drifting, will cause your tires to wear out quickly and will put stress on your car's components.