Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Moons And Goochers

Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 28, 2013

If you watched the 1986 movie “Stand By Me” or read the 1983 story “The Body” you might remember the scene where the four boys are flipping coins to see which of them has to go to the store and pick up “supplies” for their overnight adventure. The idea is that in flipping coins, the odd man out has to go pick them up.

Now if, in the flipping of the coins, everyone gets heads, that’s called a moon. But if everyone gets tails, it’s extraordinary bad luck and it’s called a goocher. Regardless, a moon or a goocher are definitely out of the norm and so a goocher is something out of the norm that isn’t necessarily good. The explanation is found in Stephen King’s novella “The Body” that was the basis for the movie “Stand By Me” and in the movie, Teddy Duchamp says to Vern Lachance:

Vern-o, no one believes that crap about moons and goochers anymore, it’s baby stuff! Now come on, flip again.

In Stephen King’s 1983 novella, “The Body” included in the book “Different Seasons” the scene rolls out as follows:

“Nobody believes that crap about moons and goochers,” Teddy said impatiently. “It’s baby stuff, Vern. You gonna flip or not?”

Vern flipped, but with obvious reluctance. This time he, Chris, and Teddy all had tails. I was showing Thomas Jefferson on a nickel. And I was suddenly scared. It was as if a shadow had crossed some inner sun. They still have a goocher, the three of them, as if dumb fate had pointed at them a second time. Abruptly I thought of Chris saying: I just get a couple of hairs and Teddy screams and down he goes. Weird huh?

Three tails, one head.

Then Teddy was laughing his crazy, cackling laugh and pointing at me and the feeling was gone.

Try as Idiomation did, we were unable to track down an earlier published version of the expression moons and goochers and so it seems to have first appeared in Stephen King’s story published in 1983 (set in 1959 over Labor Day weekend in Oregon in the movie, and in 1960 in Maine in the book). This presents Idiomation with a conundrum: either this is an expression Stephen King coined in 1983 or this is an expression he and his friends used as 12-year-olds in 1959.

If we’re lucky, maybe Mr. King could send someone over to let us know where the idiom is from and settle this question.

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