Goose-step

Oft with aching bones,

I marched the goose-step,

Cursing Serjeant Jones.

– D. L. Richardson, Sonnets (1825), cited in OED

A goose is more of a waddler than a walker, but when a gander wants to intimidate a rival by making himself tall, his strut looks somewhat like the stiff-legged marching style you see in newsreels. The term first appeared in 1806, when several countries adopted a leg-swinging exercise to improve soldiers’ balance. The related style of marching became associated with Prussian militarism.

Rows of soldiers goose-stepping behind other soldiers in tight formation probably had nothing to do with a subsequent use of goose – as a verb, meaning to surprise someone with a jab between the buttocks – but at least one soldier made the connection, as quoted in the Oxford English Dictionary:

As soon as…I had learned the goose-step, I had learned to be goosed. – F. Griffin (1881)

Photo: Karl Stull

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