For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.
Geezer is a slang term for an old man and according to Cassidy, it comes from Irish gaoiseach or gaosmhar, which (again, according to him) means ‘wise person’. Gaoiseach and gaosmhar both come from the noun gaois, meaning wisdom. They are not nouns and they do not mean ‘wise person’. They are adjectives meaning wise. You could say someone was a fear gaosmhar (wise man) or a duine gaosmhar (wise person) or indeed a bean ghaosmhar (a wise woman). Not that they were a gaosmhar.
Leaving aside the fact that it’s the wrong part of speech, the word gaosmhar implies respect for someone’s wisdom. The word geezer is slightly insulting and dismissive and implies no respect at all (except in contexts like ‘diamond geezer’). How would you express geezer in Irish? Seanlead, perhaps, or seanfhondúir, or seanduine, or seanbhuachaill, depending on the dialect or the person or the wind direction … Not gaosmhar, certainly.
Although geezer now refers to an old man, it originally meant an eccentric person of any age, a person with strange views. And its origin is widely accepted as being from guiser, a contraction of disguiser, a person who dressed up in a bizarre custume to hide their identity, as mummers or wren-boys do as they go from house to house collecting money, or kids do when they trick-or-treat at Halloween.
Here’s an amusing treatment of the real facts about the origins of this word: