Explain gool

When I was a kid (born in 1960) and played games like tag there was always a safe zone that we called “gool”. I’m guessing this was universal at least in the U.S. as we once went to Arkansas to visit family friends and I played with some kids down there and they called it “gool” also.

So what the heck is “gool”?:confused:

I’m thinking it is a bastardized version of “goal”.

Or was it a version of “ghoul” originating from the game red light/green light?

Any clues here?

Never heard of gool. Safe zones were usually called “bases” in games that I remember.

Home base or home free in my experience (1970s, east coast). Never heard of gool.

Grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin. We always had “gool” in those sorts of games (always wondered what the exact spelling of that word was).

Perhaps a mispronunciation of gaol?

Moved to the Game Room.

Never heard of it growing up in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. It would have been “base” or “home.”

We had base in Washington in the 80’s. It usually wasn’t a zone, but something that had to be constantly touched, like a fire hydrant.

In some games we had jail, but that was where you went after getting caught. You had to be broken out by other players on your team.

Maybe it’s a regional thing - I’ve heard of it - we used it when playing tag or hide and go seek - we were in Maine.

But maybe it’s just because there are a lot of ghouls in Maine.

As we all know from the works of Mr. King.

OK - maybe this helps. Clearly regional.


We used to say the “my ghouls 1…2…3…” thing too. I never knew it was “Ghouls” - thought it was Goos

For us it was usually “base” and occasionally “goal” (depending on the version being played), not gool.

Clearly not regional, or at least multi-regional, since we have testimony of it being used in New England, Illinois (which I can confirm) and Arkansas.

None of us ever wrote it down. If I had I would have spelled it “gool”. Later on when I learned the Commonwealth spelling of jail was gaol I thought there might be a connection, but gaol and gool were kind of opposite.

My childhood was in the 60s and 70s, in Detroit. We indeed had ‘goul’. Typically as a previous poster stated, it was a tree, fire hydrant - some stationery object, centrally located and it was a ‘safe haven’ you couldn’t be tagged. However, you could only stay on goul for a short period of time. I recall a phrase, some type of warning if the player remained on goul too long, possibly “1,2,3 get off my father’s apple tree or you are it”.

Our use of “base” was for ‘running bases’, baseball and ‘curb ball’ or 500.

Just to add a data point – “gool” was used in my northeast Ohio (Cleveland suburb) neighborhood from at least the late '60’s to mid-'70’s.

I stumbled across this and thought of the same thing.

I grew up in Illinois in the 70’s and while I can attest to a safe zone (and the “1, 2, 3…” warning) I always assumed it was just “Goal”. Calling it “Gool” with its own spelling never registered.

When I was a kid playing back in the early sixties in northern Minnesota, “gool” was the thing you touched or place you stood (“on gool”) so you couldn’t be tagged. We didn’t have a time limit, but you were obligated to leave gool as soon as you safely could. I was reminded of this blast from the past because I was reading a memoir of someone who wrote of his boyhood in northern Iowa in the 1870’s. He referred to playing “gool”, but didn’t elaborate, as though it were common knowledge what he was talking about.

Never heard “gool” myself. We called it “glue” in my neighborhood (and nearby neighborhoods) in Chicago in the 80s. Seems to be an obvious corruption of “gool,” though.

I used “ghoul” (though it was only verbal, and I played D&D, so that explains my choice of spelling) or “goose”.