pol, indo-european etymology
(ironic that the word, a favorite of Margaret Thatcher as much as any other conservative politician, is itself a cognate of "thatch," via proto-Germanic *þaką and ultimately PIE *(s)teg- 'cover')
'goon' comes from an anti-aboriginal character.
'hooligan' from anti-Irish characters.
'hoodlum' from hiring Irish immigrants to threaten Chinese immigrants
'bully' started out with an opposite meaning 'brother, lover'.
'punk' has too many positive connotations for me.
Which leaves 'ruffian' and pardon me while I get my lace cuffs out of my way and take a bit of snuff, m'lady.
'lout' would work, I guess, though it lacks that sinister flair.
I'll keep looking...
'brute' seems like best replacement for 'thug' if you want the sense of a probably violent, not necessarily that intelligent, possibly but not always criminal, usually dangerous person.
@aparrish uncoincidentally (?) I hear it mostly used in racist contexts today.
@lawremipsum it truly is the biscotti of slurs (twice-baked in racism)
@aparrish ...I have just realized I only knew this because of the most egregiously orientalist bits of Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality series.
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