Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Word of the day: Gricer
I am a lover of trains, for which there are several terms in American English. Among them:
1. Rail buff. This denotes a fellow who thrills to the sight of a passing freight train but does not necessarily devote his entire life to the study of flanged wheel on steel rail. I'm one.
2. Railfan. This is a rail buff with a little more topspin, someone who reads Trains magazine and takes vacations on Amtrak.
3. Foamer. Someone whose entire life is trains, trains, trains, who owns at least one engineer's cap, and who froths at the mouth while discussing his hobby.
This morning, on one of the Internet rail-buff forums I visit, a message poster from the United Kingdom allowed as to how he was a "gricer," the British version of a foamer.
Naturally, being a word buff also, I set about hunting up the etymology. It's murky.
One site claims "grice" goes back to the late 1930s and is derived from a successful day of grouse hunting, at the end of which one has a bag of grice, a mock plural for grouse. In other words, gricing is like "trainspotting," another British term for foaming in which one bags, or captures in one's notebook, the roster numbers of as many locomotives as possible. (Maybe a Briton can explain this better than I can.)
Another site locates the roots of "grice" in "G. Rice," the name emblazoned on a grocer's van often borrowed by a gaggle of trainspotters somewhere in the Midlands during the 1970s.
This may be more than you wanted to know about U.K. railroad slang, but if you should one day find yourself on the Flying Scotsman from King's Cross to Edinburgh, you will be able to impress Brits with your arcane knowledge.