April 02, 2004

Geezer: guiser or gozer?

In response to my post on "diamond geezer", Trevor wrote to say

I wonder if "geezer" isn't East End Jewish in origin. The equivalent urban Dutch word is "gozer", which http://www.ety.nl/jiddisch.html says is a Dutch Yiddish [derivation from] the Hebrew "chosen", bridegroom.

The OED says that geezer is "A dial. pronunciation of GUISER", which in turn is analyzed as "One who guises (see GUISE v. 3); a masquerader, a mummer. (Cf. GUISARD, GEEZER.)". Citations are given from the 15th and 16th centuries:

1488 Ld. Treas. Acc. Scotl. (1877) I. 93 Item, in Lannerik, to dansaris and gysaris, xxxvis. 1572 Satir. Poems Reform. xxxviii. 14 For gysours, deuysours, the Guysianis ar gude.

This might be one of those cases where two words from completely different sources form a mutually reinforcing resonance: a lexicographic pole, so to speak.

If it weren't for www.ety.nl, I might suspect Trevor of making a Ghostbusters allusion: "Wait for a sign from Gozer the Traveler; he will come in one of the pre-chosen forms." The whole geezer/guiser/gozer thing might be just as much an accident as this gozer/chosen association, I suppose.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 2, 2004 08:25 PM