Meaning and origin of the term “pigeon?”
I am familiar with the the terms "prospect sponsee" and "protégé," but do you know where the term "pigeon" comes from?
As noted in Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers
, p.146, Dr. Bob was known to use quite a collection of slang terms in his everyday vocabulary. According to early accounts
Bob was intrigued by the various slang terms used for drunks and being drunk.
The most famous list of synonyms for "drunk" was a collection of 200 terms compiled by Benjamin Franklin
. Among the synonyms is found "pigeon-eyed." Perhaps Bob thought in order to be "pigeon-eyed" one must be a "pigeon," but that is a bit speculative.
Wherever he picked it up from, the term seems to have started with Dr. Bob's creative use of language and caught on as a term used for "a newcomer to A.A." and was in use by 1940. In current A.A. usage, "pigeon" typically refers to sponsees. The term is somewhat limited to the eastern USA and but is heard in a variety in other places too. Though more modern non-A.A.
slang typically uses "pigeon" as a synonym for mark, easy target, dupe, chump, sap, sitting duck,
, it clearly seems that was not the original intended connotation as that wouldn't be in line with Dr. Bob's well known good character. The use of "pigeon" was never intended to be any more derogatory than calling a newcomer "a drunk."