The phrase like Hogan’s goat refers to something that is faulty, messed up, or stinks like a goat. The phrase is a reference to R.F. Outcault’s seminal newspaper comic Hogan’s Alley, which debuted in 1895. The title of the strip changed to The Yellow Kid the following year.
Various references to Hogan’s goat can be found throughout the early 20th century, usually in reference to a person named Hogan. The earliest metaphorical reference I have found is in the Washington Post on 9 April 1940:
The fans will love it. They don’t know a thoroughbred from Hogan’s Goat.
And there is this which was published in the World War II Times at some point late in the war:
An old Navy descriptive phrase for total confusion is “fouled up like Hogan’s goat.” This is an accurate account of a PBY early wartime patrol that was, indeed fouled up like Hogan’s goat and therein lies a tale.
(Source: Proquest Historical Newspapers)
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton