Sunday, 19 February 2012

A Valentine's Day Afterthought

I needed to refer to to my copy of The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang this week. One word caught my eye as I had not realised it had ever had so many meanings, nor used in so many ways. That word was GANDER.

To me 'gander' had two meanings: officially used to describe a male goose but also used as slang term for 'look, peruse' as in "Have a gander at this!" Yet the dictionary has no less than ten other uses for the same word.

Gander - from the 17th to the 20th centuries described a married man, clearly taken from the term for the goose.

Gander-party - an alternative to a stag-party.

Gander - as in "What's good for the goose is good for the gander", earlier given as "What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander", and first seen in the 18th century as "Goose, gander and gosling are three sounds but one thing" and all asking for no preferential treatment.

Gander - used to mean to ramble or waddle like a goose, in use during the 19th century.

Gander - a fool, chiefly in use in London and thought to be derived from Gandin, the French personification of a fop or fool.

Gander-faced - an adaption of the previous use, this meaning 'silly-faced' in the 19th century.

Gander's wool - refers to feathers, itself a colloquialism for 'money'. Hence a rather long-winded reference to cash.

Gander-mooner - is a husband during the gander-month (see following) and the somewhat tenuous link to Valentine's Day.

Gander-month (also Gander-moon) - describes the month after childbirth and in use from the 17th to early 19th centuries. Yes, exactly what I wondered - why is there a male reference to childbirth, when this is something no male (human nor goose) has thus far managed to deliver? Somewhat inconsiderately this described the period when, with the wife 'indisposed', it was perfectly acceptable for the husband to sleep around.

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