“She gandered a book of mug shots.”

I love the word “gander.” I love that that’s what a male goose is called. I love that he gets the same sauce as his female counterpart, the “goose” (nice that once in a while the species name is also the female name—unlike, for example, our species, where the “man” in “mankind” was meant to refer to us all…).

And I particularly like the word “gander” in the phrase “take a gander,” suggesting as it does the stretched neck of someone looking at something not in his (or her) proximate field of vision. I also import a pointy nose at the end of the stretch, an approximation of a goose’s beak and also a suggestion of nosiness in the gander-taker. Goosification!

My Webster’s suggests also a dialect usage of “gander” to mean “wander.” It doesn’t specify which dialect, but it does specify that this verb usage is intransitive. Wherever the speakers of that dialect used to gander, they could only wander; they couldn’t wander something. Webster’s also provides no etymology for this usage, leaving me free to imagine male geese waddling to and fro and over the hill, possibly in search of female geese. “Goosey, goosey, gander, Whither do you gander“?

But only my student uses “gander” as a transitive verb, bless her. It’s possible she found it in a thesaurus, looking up “look” (with a verb in mind) and not realizing she was reading a list of quasi-synonyms for the noun “gander.” Yes, I can see that happening easily enough. I prefer, though, to imagine that her choice is resident in her idiolect. Picture her at a party somewhere with a couple of girlfriends, noticing a comely male on the other side of the room, and, nudging her friends, whispering, “Gander HIM, girls!”

Most of all I like how funny her sentence sounds. There’s something almost rakish about it.

The visual image isn’t bad, either: the young woman sitting at a table, perhaps, and stretching her neck so she can see, farther down the table, the photos in what another student called a “police picture book.”

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““She gandered a book of mug shots.”

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