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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Mooning means to expose the bare buttocks as a challenge or a taunt. Although it was undoubtedly used previously in some settings, the word first came to national attention after it appeared in a report in the Chester, S.C., News and Reporter on 23 Apr. 1974. It was picked up and included in the 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, where it was defined and described as a slang word.

The act of mooning, although at the time not named as such, was reported to have occurred in eighteenth-century North Carolina. The journal kept by Benjamin Elledge of Wilkes County recorded that on 8 Sept. 1776, the local militia under Brig. Gen. Griffith Rutherford was on an expedition against the Cherokee Indians. "Some of Our troops saw 7 or Eight Indians this day," Elledge wrote. "One Indian flung up his Arse Clout & Smack't his arse at Our Men Tho [they] took Care to be On a Mt too far for Bullitting."

This early episode was brought to light on 26 Aug. 1997, after an incident of mooning reported by a resident of Charlotte was publicized. Walking up the stairs to her condominium early one morning in July 1995, the woman encountered the bare backside of a man bent over at the waist and wearing no underwear. He was charged with indecent exposure, and the case languished for three years as it made its way through a lengthy appeal procedure. Finally found guilty, the accused appealed again, and this time mooning was ruled not to be indecent. The case ultimately went to the North Carolina Supreme Court, where the defendant's conviction was restored.

Additional Resources:

State of North Carolina v. Mark Edward Fly. No. 472A97. (North Carolina Supreme Court, July 9, 1998). (accessed August 9, 2012).

Fowler, Thomas L. "Of Moons, Thongs, Holdings and Dicta: State v. Fly and the Rule of Law," Campbell Law Review 22. Number 2. Spring 2000. p. 253-315. (accessed August 10, 2012).

Wickman, Forrest. "Mooning: A History." Wednesday, June 27, 2012. (accessed August 9, 2012).

Coan, John L. Letter to the editor. [Raleigh, N.C.] News and Observer, August 20, 1997.

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The scots (one t) have a long tradition of this.


O the variety of things my father has researched.


And we are so thankful that he not only researched them, but wrote about them, to share that research with the world. North Carolina is very lucky to have such a prolific and notable historian to document its history, even the parts that include mooning.


Michelle Underhill, Digital Information Management Program, NC Government & Heritage Library

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