Tuesday, June 13, 2006

geezers



In the US, a geezer is an old man--preferably one who looks something like the picture on the left.

In informal British English, however, geezer means something more like dude means in AmE. (But unlike dude, people don't go around addressing each other as geezer.) It can be used for any man, or to connote that someone is 'one of the lads' (US: guys) or a bit cheeky or laddish--i.e. a bit naughty. A diamond geezer is a great guy. A dodgy geezer is someone you're better off avoiding. Geezer used in this way has a bit of east London attitude to it.

One sometimes sees babygros (UK)/onesies (US) emblazoned with GEEZER, as in the picture on the right. Thought about getting some of these for my infant nephews, but thought they'd only cause consternation in the US.

11 comments:

Carl Burnett said...

I'm an American, I first came across the British usage in the music of The Streets, a.k.a. the "grime" MC Mike Skinner. I was quite confused about the meaning of the song "Geezers Need Excitement" until the British meaning was explained to me.

Carl Burnett said...

Oops, that first sentence is missing an "and." I don't want to give the impression that I go around posting bad grammar on language-related blogs. :)

lynneguist said...

Not the first time the Streets have (has?) come up on this blog. Mike Skinner may be patient zero in a British-slang-in-American-mouths epidemic!

Lady Bracknell said...

The use of "geezer" in UK English is restricted to those who either hail from London or who - for some unfathomable reason - wish to give the impression that they do.

It carries the implication of a person who is not overly particular about abiding by the letter of the law and is thus only a compliment when used by someone who associates manliness with a refusal to follow rules.

It is not used in the North and, despite racking her brains, Lady Bracknell is unable to cite any Northern equivalent.

Lady Bracknell said...

On mature reflection, Lady Bracknell has made an error.

It is true to say that "geezer" is a London word. However, it was originally just another way of saying, "bloke". And it carried no implication of impropriety. (Although it would never have been used by, or to describe, chaps from the middle or upper classes.) It is still, as Ms Guist has pointed out, widely used in its original sense.

When used in the sense described in Lady Bracknell's earlier comment, it is actually pronounced slightly differently. There is greater emphasis placed on the first syllable, rather as though it was spelled, "geeeezer".

Plus, in very recent years, we have the nascence of the term, "geezer bird". This describes rather rough (not to mention raucous) young women who can drink pint for pint with their male counterparts, and who have adopted the sort of attitude towards casual sex which was previously the preserve of men.

The St. Pete Project said...

There is also a song by the band Ultramarine called "Geezer." Never really knew what it meant until now!

Strawberryyog said...

Ha Lynne, great to have a Twitter reminder of a blast from the past.

I am amazed that no-one has yet mentioned the superb London-based Diamond Geezer blog at http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com/ - always worth a read!

Grace said...

I find it interesting that in the US, it's far more common to say "old geezer" than it is simply to say "geezer." Has the US "geezer" evolved from the British "geezer" leaving us with this redundancy?

Grace said...

I find it interesting that in the US, it's far more common to say "old geezer" than it is simply to say "geezer." Has the US "geezer" evolved from the British "geezer" leaving us with this redundancy?

lynneguist said...

No, it's always been associated with 'old'. The original meaning is a disparaging term for a male, usually an old one (but not necessarily). The more favo(u)rable take on it in modern British slang is the innovation.

enitharmon said...

I've long believed that 'geezer' is a form of 'guiser'; somebody who goes round in disguise as, for example, players in traditional mummers plays with their stock characters travelling from pub to pub. Guisers still figure in Britain's best overnight party, Up Helly-Aa in Shetland, about as far from London as you can get. This suggests to me a Nordic origin; the MC of each year's festivities is designated the Guiser Jarl and his 'squad' dress up as Vikings.