What’s good for the goose is good for the ganso.

If English goose and Spanish ganso mean the same thing and look alike, it’s no coincidence. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Spanish acquired ganso from a Germanic source akin to Old High German gans, a cognate of English goose. The English word used to have an n in it, and still does in the masculine version, gander.

Long after Spanish borrowed ganso from Germanic, the borrowing may have gone the other way. It’s conjectured that the slang English term gonzo ultimately traces back to ganso following the semantic line that allows English to refer to someone as a silly goose. If you’re not familiar with gonzo, the Collins English Dictionary defines it as:

1. wild or crazy
2. (of journalism) explicitly including the writer’s feelings at the time of witnessing the events or undergoing the experiences written about.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Mar 02, 2017 @ 10:22:16

    Your post first brought to mind a familiar childhood rhyme:

    Goosey Goosey Gander, where shall I wander?
    Upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s chamber.
    There I met an old man who wouldn’t say his prayers,
    I took him by the left leg and threw him down the stairs.

    There’s some interesting background for the verse here.

    As for Gonzo journalism, that definition’s accurate, but doesn’t quite capture the reality of Hunter S. Thompson, whose book, The Great Shark Hunt, provided me with one of my all-time favorite quotations: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Mar 02, 2017 @ 12:45:07

      It’s been a long time since I heard that nursery rhyme. Thanks for your link to its background, which I didn’t know. I wonder if new nursery rhymes will spring up based on events in our times.


  2. asdf1935
    Mar 02, 2017 @ 11:31:42

    You write in this article “The English word used to have an n in it, and still does in the feminine version, gander.” i think that you will fine that Gander is masculine: it is the term used for the adult male goose.


  3. nliakos
    Mar 03, 2017 @ 06:03:22

    I studied Russian in college. I’ve always wondered if the Russian “gus ” (pronounced “goos “) was related to the English or if it was just a weird coincidence. This reminded me of that!


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©2011–2018 Steven Schwartzman

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