November 11, 2009
Who Knew?

I am indebted to Underbelly for today’s etymological note:

The two meanings are believed to have originated concurrently but independently. gunsel: Or: gonsil/ gonzel/ gonsel: A 19th century term of German and Yiddish (little goose) derivation for a young, inexperienced gay male similar to the more recent gay slang term, “twink.” See sodomite for synonyms.

The latter usage — a gun-toting hoodlum — derives from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Hammett’s publisher at the time refused to allow any rude or profane terminology in his publication. Hammett slipped in “gunsel” — a street term for a young, gay man — as a joke. Since it is used throughout the book to refer to the character of Wilmer — a gun-toting thug — most people erroneously assumed that is what it meant and it stuck.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at November 11, 2009 10:38 AM
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