Gonzo - Word of the Week

Definition: Gonzo

Noun: A style of journalism or storytelling in which the journalist is also a main character. Also, entertainment is more important than correctness.

Example: "Hunter Thomson's article on the Kentucky Derby is a great example of gonzo journalism."

"Gonzo" is a word that is used mostly for talking about types of news articles or television programs - especially MTV2's show "Gonzo".

But, it actually means a type of journalism told from the perspective of the journalist, who is usually one of the characters in the story. The red fist above is a symbol for gonzo. It's called the "gonzo fist", has two thumbs and is holding a flower.

The word "gonzo," and the style of journalism itself, were made popular by writer Hunter S. Thompson. He was an American sports and political journalist in the 1960s - 1980s who wrote many (now famous) articles about the biggest sporting and  political events of the day.

He also wrote novels. The most famous ones are 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' and 'The Rum Diary'. Both were made  into films starring Johnny Depp, who was a good friend of Thompson.

Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro in 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'. Image courtesy of nxs973.

Today the word "gonzo" is used to describe any story that is told from the journalist's point of view, and where style and entertainment are more important than getting the facts right. This kind of storytelling is common in reality television shows.

Interesting fact: The film 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' is not actually gonzo storytelling. It is a type of story called a "picaresque", which usually shows two funny characters (normally men) having crazy adventures and getting into trouble.

Origins: The word "gonzo" was first used by a newspaper called The Boston Globe to describe Hunter Thompson's 1970 article on The Kentucky Derby. The word was originally a Boston Irish slang term for the last man standing after an all-night drinking marathon!

Do you have dreams of being a journalist?  One of the best ways to become a journalist for an English publication is to take an academic year English course, where you'll spend up to 9 months learning to be a fluent English speaker and writer.

Can you think of any other good examples of modern gonzo stories?  We'd love to hear about them in the comments!

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