British "geezer" = American "gangster"?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Jan 23 22:16:11 UTC 2007

On 1/23/07, Jonathon Green <slang at> wrote:
> No, a geezer is not a gangster. The Streets (one person rather than a
> group, as it happens) is very much into charting the life of . .. a
> geezer, in other words, an ordinary bloke. A gangster might be also be a
> geezer, and quite possible referred to as such by by his fellow geezers,
> and indeed gangsters (hence the OED cites), but geezer doesn't mean
> gangster as such. As you suggest in your final par, it means a 'chap' or
> 'bloke'. The image is usually working-class, probably London or the
> Cockney colonies of Essex, and could be, but doesn't have to be a bit of
> a Jack the Lad. For echt-geezer-dom I recommend the lyrics of the late
> and quite irreplacable Ian Dury.

And for ersatz-geezer-dom (Jafaican style) there is of course the
oeuvre of Ali G. (HBO's "Da Ali G Show" introduced the 'bloke' sense
of "geezer" to many Americans.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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