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by Jaime O'Neill, August 17, 2010
It's official. I'm now a geezer. I went through the induction ceremony last week. Younger people may not know this, but on the first full moon six months after he turns 60, every man is required to attend the Admission to Geezerdom Ritual welcoming him to his Sunset Years.
The word "geezer" comes from the ancient Sanskrit verb "geez," which originally meant "to smile disgustingly while chewing guava." By the time the word found its way into the English language, however, it had lost much of its original meaning but had found new connotations in the colder climes of Britannia.
The earliest English usage of the word is found in Chaucer, in which the Knyghte visits his father who "doth verily geez hys sonne whan he cometh and whan he goeth." The Oxford English Dictionary next cites the use of the word in Shakespeare's King Lear in a scene where the jester describes Lear as "one who doth geez most nunkily."
As a noun, the word originally meant "one who geezes." It also has a history as an adjective ("The geezy lawyer fussed over his client") and as an adverb ("Santa spoke geezily to his elves").
Being a newly minted geezer, I have taken a great interest in this word and its meanings. When I was younger, I just assumed it meant "an old guy," but its etymology proves to be much richer than my once-simple understanding led me to believe.
The odd thing is that though I am, officially, a geezer, I don't feel much different than I did in earlier years. One notable geezer activity is leering at young women. Now, I've done this my entire life, but it wasn't an activity I associated with geezerdom until my recent birthday. Recently, my friend Steve caught me ogling a young woman, and he commanded me most sharply: "Stop geezing that bimbo!" The act of geezing is, therefore, related to age. Ogle young women when you're 35, but do it after 60 and you are, alas, geezing.
But there are a number of other meanings to the word, as was explained to us new inductees by the Grand Geezer during the initiation ceremony. In fact, he geezed us for hours on the subject, which is to say that he went on at boring length about a subject of interest mostly to him. As it turns out, that is yet another meaning of the word. Geezers geez younger people by boring them senseless, which was how Chaucer used the word in the example cited above, or as I am doing here as I explain the etymology of the word. Consider yourself geezed.
It turns out, though, that in one of its many usages, the word "geez" is related to the word "schmooze." Note that both words end in a "z" sound, and then note that geezing is just schmoozing done by an old man. When you're a young man boring co-workers with tales of your weekend trip to the hardware store, that is called "schmoozing," but when you tell the same tales as an old man, that's called "geezing," and the activity itself will confirm your reputation as a geezer.
Yet another definition of the word means "to correct younger people, incessantly." For example, if your son-in-law is working on something, it is your responsibility as a geezer to tell him he's not doing it right and to explain to him that things were, in any case, done much better in your day.
Other definitions of the word "geez" as a verb include: driving while signaling for a turn that never comes ("He drove straight ahead while geezing for a turn"), making cutely suggestive, repetitive witticisms to waitresses in coffee shops ("Doris came over to his table, and he geezed her while nursing a cup of coffee"), forgetting the names of one's grandchildren, and the ages of one's children ("He loved his offspring, but he was inclined to geez their names and ages"), and wearing house slippers to the supermarket ("He geezed his way down the aisle in search of an item he couldn't remember").
I would like to continue to acquaint you with the breadth of meaning this fascinating word holds, but I see my young neighbor outside trying to fix his lawn mower. His pretty young wife is also out there in a pair of shorts. I can geez them both in one visit.
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