Origin uncertain; possibly from gunsel (“stupid or contemptible fellow, creep; young man kept for homosexual purposes, catamite”), from Yiddish גענדזל (gendzl, “gosling”), from Middle High German gensel, diminutive of gans (“goose”) (compare German Gänslein (“gosling”), from Gans (“goose”), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰh₂éns (“goose”)).
There is an unverified suggestion that the word was first used in the 1960s by staff of the Sydney Tramway Museum in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, to describe shabbily dressed trainspotters. They were apparently influenced by the word gunsel (“a gun-carrying hoodlum”), which had been popularized in the film The Maltese Falcon (1941) based on the 1929 novel of the same name by American author Dashiell Hammet (1894–1961).
gunzel (plural gunzels)
- (Australia) A railway or tram enthusiast; particularly (formerly derogatory) one who is overly enthusiastic or foolish.
2008, Mark Dapin, “Trainspotting”, in Strange Country: Travels in a Very Different Australia, Sydney, N.S.W.: Pan Macmillan Australia, →ISBN, book 4 (From Melbourne to Sydney), page 293:
- 'There're people who have an intellectual impairment,' he said, 'and studying trains seems a natural thing for them to gravitate to. And then there're people who have more of a hobby-style interest in it.' […] He feels gunzels are misunderstood by the outside world …
2009 January 9, Jeremy Lee, “Foamers, Gunzels, and Gricers: Attention All Foamers, Gunzels, and Gricers – the Warrnambool Model Railway Club are about to Display Their Wares Once Again”, in ABC South West Victoria, archived from the original on 22 February 2018:
- [L]ike many model train enthusiasts, he now takes some pride in being called a foamer, or a gunzel, or even a gricer – all names for those who enjoy model trains.
2011 December 31, Adam Carey, quoting John Andrews, “Tram driver who lived for the job was ‘last of his kind’”, in The Age, archived from the original on 22 February 2018:
- He loved the job and for him the job was his life. He wasn't a gunzel [tram obsessive], he was far more interested [in] his passengers.
2012 November 15, Adam Carey, “New myki card readers no faster”, in The Sydney Morning Herald, archived from the original on 16 November 2012:
- Marcus Wong, a self-described gunzel (rail obsessive) and engineering geek, conducted his experiment in two stages – timing the hybrid Metcard/myki barriers in June and again last week with the new myki-only gates that have replaced them.
2013 June 28, Darren Gray, “Riding the grain train: It weighs 3030 tonnes, is more than 600 metres long, and can take five kilometres to stop. It’s the mega-train taking our grain to the docks.”, in The Sydney Morning Herald, archived from the original on 22 February 2018:
- At 2.27am when it slows to a halt at Bendigo railway station for a crew change, two young gunzels (rail fanatics) are waiting with cameras on the platform alongside the crew.
- (Australia, by extension) An enthusiast or geek with a specific interest.
2016, Tom Chesshyre, Ticket to Ride: Around the World on 49 Unusual Train Journeys, Chichester, West Sussex: Summersdale Publishers, →ISBN:
- I ask him about Australian trainspotters. 'Do such people exist?' / 'We call them train gunzels. A gunzel is a person who is really stuck on one thing. In Sydney you get guys on the platforms. This carriage here is the CDF924 – that's the number for Matilda's Restaurant. The guys on the platform will say, "Oh, I haven't seen that for a while" […]'
- (US) Alternative spelling of .
- (railway or tram enthusiast): ferroequinologist (humorous, nonstandard), foamer, railfan (US), trainspotter
- ^ J. E. Lighter, editor (1994) Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, volume 1 (A–G), New York, N.Y.: Random House, →ISBN; “Red, White and Very Blue”, in Newsweek, 10 July 1994, ISSN 0028-9604, OCLC 818916146, archived from the original on 17 January 2018.
- “Gunsel” in Michael Quinion, World Wide Words, 12 August 2006.
- ^ Don Campbell (2 January 2004), “Re: Gunzels”, in Trams DownUnder, archived from the original on 17 January 2018.