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Re: gunzel?

Derick Wuen wrote in message <372e1403.0@iridium.webone.com.au>...

>Newbie to group seeks info on etymology and usage of term gunzel.

big snip

Thank goodness we have sorted that out. Thanks to all who contributed. I’ll
attempt to summarise.

Gunzel ( noun, slang Australia especially Victoria): A person who pursues
useless and pointless railway enthusiast activities. Verb (intransitive) to
gunzel, to go gunzelling.

UK equivalents: gricer, anorak.

USA equivalents: foamer, foamite.

Usage: usually a derogatory context, sometimes term of endearment (q.v. “you
bastard” and “you old bastard”). Applied by railway enthusiasts and
sometimes by professional railway personnel to other railway enthusiasts,
and represents status layering of the railway enthusiast movement. An early
example (circa 1970) had “steam” and “real” railway enthusiasts apply the
term to the useless and pointless tramway enthusiasts. Other useless and
pointless activities mentioned include:

. taking too many railway photographs;
. collecting engine numbers;
. sitting on platforms merely to watch trains;
. taking 2 or 3 day excursions in rail motors to outlandish places;
. pedantic concentration on esoteric details, not confined to but especially
timetables and safeworking;
. poor social graces (washing habits, unfashionable clothes, boring
conversations, getting in other peoples’ photographs).

Given that many professional railway personnel consider all railway
enthusiast activity to be useless and pointless, by definition all railway
enthusiasts are gunzels. Therefore when used by railway enthusiasts, the
term is becoming less offensive. If this trend continues, then gunzel will
be more aligned to the UK trainspotter rather than gricer.


(1) From an old English term meaning “kept boy”. The homosexual connotation
is probably a reference to useless and pointless activity rather than an
assertion about the sexual preferences of whatever sub-group of railway
enthusiasts are being discriminated against.
(2) From a Hollywood B-grade movie, possibly the “Maltese Falcon”, where
gunsel or gunzel was used as a contraction of gunslinger.

Given that the gunslinger in the Maltese Falcon was quite effective against
all but Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart), its difficult to see the connection
between gunslinging and useless and pointless railway enthusiasm. I favour
the first derivation, even though the word was not in my concise Oxford.

Collective Nouns: So what word to use for a bunch of railway enthusiasts?
Can we do better than “mob”? Lets try in the UK first. A gaggle of gricers?
Hmmmm, not so descriptive. A grunge of anoraks! Now USA: A froth of foamers!
Oz: A gossip of gunzels!


There are some possible reasons for the term not gaining widespread usage
outside Victorian railway enthusiast circles.

(1) the prototype gunzel grouping was tramway enthusiasts. By the 1970’s
there were few tramways outside Victoria to be the objects of useless and
pointless enthusiasm. Most trams, and tram enthusiasts, in other states were
confined to museums by the 1970’s.
(2) By the 1970’s Sydney had become the gay capital of the south pacific.
Any group trying to induce a superior status by inferring another group was
inferior by dint of sexual preference was unlikely to succeed simply because
sexual preference did not provide sufficient discriminatory power within
society (even amongst professional railway employees!). Sydney (and to a
lesser extent NSW) was at the dawn of a sensitive new age era. So how did
professional railway employees characterise useless and pointless railway
enthusiast activity? In the spirit of the sensitive new age they called it

To me, the term wanker, or even railway wanker, is not only coarse, but
ineffective at conveying the intent of the term gunzel.. Wanking after all
is not confined to railway enthusiasts. Therefore we should rejoice in the
homegrown term gunzel, and exploit its descriptive powers.

Gunzel-free railway enthusiam?

Can a person indulge in railway enthusiasm without being a gunzel? There is
a valiant attempt to prove the answer to the question is “Yes” by a
contributor to the aus.rail internet newsgroup, who goes by the pseudonym of

Contributing original postings, responding to postings and even logging into
and reading postings on aus.rail is likely to be sufficient condition for
attaining gunzelhood. After all, its based on whether someone else thinks
your railway enthusiast activities are useless and pointless.

Notagunzel does all these things and also maintains a website devoted to
railway enthusiasm, the World of Notagunzel
http://ww.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Cockpit/9412/index.html . Notagunzel
strenuously asserts the contrary, not by avoiding railway enthusiast
activities, but by the manner of execution of those activities. This site
contains (amongst other things) photos of disconnected signal lever frames,
current signalling practices in Tasmania, and an official diagram of the
safeworking arrangements at Drome in 1939.

Useless and pointless? Pedantic and boring concentration on detail?
Possibly. But Notagunzel maintains that these things were done in non-gunzel
style, and challenges any gunzel who wants to score points on the manner of
execution of the website to declare gunzelhood by so-doing.

Most of us would not have the strength of character to follow this lead. So
for the rest of us, try this….

Self-Administered Gunzel Quotient Test

Answer yes or no to the following….

(1) I have purchased at least one publication devoted to railway enthusiasm.
(2) I have heaps of railway enthusiast publications.
(3) I am or once was a member of a railway enthusiast society.
(4) I am a member or once was a member of many railway enthusiast societies.
(5) I took a photo of a train once.
(6) I have heaps of photos of trains.
(7) I once looked at a railway oriented website.
(8) I maintain my own railway website, and look at many others.
(9) I once sat on a platform and watched trains go by.
(10) I frequently gather with fellow enthusiasts to watch trains go by.
(11) I know what a railmotor is.
(12) I have been on at least one railmotor trip to a far distant country
(13) I know what a smokebox is.
(14) I know how many rivets there are in the smokebox of R711.

For each odd-numbered question answered “yes”, score 1 point; for each even
numbered question answered “yes” score 10 points.

GQ: less than 10: what possible interest could you have in aus.rail ?
GQ 11-35: keep at it, you’ll get there eventually.
GQ: 36-50 solid achievement, suggest you take master classes.
GQ: 51-69 are you prepared to give master classes?
GQ: 70+ ok, so was that the number of rivets in the smokebox of R711 before
or after outshopping after major overhaul on 01/05/58?

In the interests of transparency, my score is 47.