"loose as a goose"

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jan 19 16:50:15 UTC 2002

The "on the other hand" was always my childhood folk (and not
necessarily false) etymology. Loose as a goose was first applied to
the runs. (I'm at my office without a dictionary and don't know how
to spell the D-word.) Later I heard it to mean other "looses"
(relaxed, for example), but that was not my earliest encounter.


>    A colleague recently passed along the suggestion below about
>"loose as a goose." A check of _Historical Dictionary of American
>Slang_ shows the meaning of the expression to be "extremely loose (in
>any sense)", and the first attestation comes in 1930: Botkin,
>_Folk-Say_, 106: "There, she's loose as a goose." But nothing is said
>about the origin of the expression.
>    So the question arises: In what way is a goose loose? Right below
>my signoff is the suggestion I received.
>--Gerald Cohen
>>    In the New York Times Crossword no. 1203 (St. Louis Post-Dispatch
>>1-14-02), "loose as a goose" is the answer to the clue, "completely
>>relaxed".  When I was a boy in the 1930's, my father used the
>>phrase,"loose as a goose", in a different way.  He meant, "having
>>loose bowels".
>>     I raised geese for several years while I was growing up.  From
>>my observations of them I believe that "loose as a goose" was first
>>used the way that my father did.  When geese walk about they
>>generally move in a slow, stately manner.  They don't dart about
>>chasing insects like chickens, ducks, or turkeys do, and when they
>>are resting they do not appear any more relaxed than other poultry.
>>On the other hand, they tend to have much looser stools than other
>>domestic fowls.

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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