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Of goose and gander
Is idiom too 'diluted' ?
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2013/02/27
5:21pm
Robert
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'What is good for the goose is good for the gander'
People on the googosphere seem pretty liberal on the meaning of this idiom; they let the goose and the gander symbolize any of these persons or concepts:
Husband / Wife
Man / Woman
Individual / Community
Anyone/ Anyone else
Anything/ Anything else
Woman rights
 
My latest sighting of it is in Newsweek where it is said (by implying) that the late author Christopher Hitchens' critic deserves the same harsh words that he uses on Hitchens and Hitchens used on others.
 
Is there a narrow use of this idiom that is 'correct' ? Or is it always so 'diluted' ?

 

2013/02/27
7:05pm
Dick
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I have always taken it as you say "diluted" Even though it literally means a male and female of a species, it can refer to any two entities in one situation.  It means that if one can be/do/have a specific thing then the other can be/do/have the same thing.  I guess it is mostly about equality of rights but often it involves revenge. (eye for eye)

Also, I might be mistaken, but I don't think this is technically an idiom.  Maybe an adage.

2013/02/28
3:33am
Glenn
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I have never taken the gender aspect literally. To me it means that the same rules / rights / privileges apply to two different people or organizations.

If one were to apply it to a gender situation where the female is assumed to be at a significant advantage -- hard to imagine there is a lot if opportunity for this -- then it would be a very clever turning of the phrase, indeed.

2013/02/28
10:27am
Robert
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It can work based on gender stereotype:  If washing dishes is good enough for the wife-    That would imply the twist that the lowly female job is the 'advantage,'  just to be extra ironic.

Actually your point is so interesting-- the structure does suggest the female gender has the advantage, or superior tastes .

2013/02/28
4:25pm
Glenn
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I've also heard it put, rarely, and mostly UK, "what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." That would fit better with the dishwashing chore.

That creates a completely different spin on "what's GOOD for". It doesn't mean what is in the best interest of the goose. It's like the Twilight Zone "To Serve Man". It's originally what is delicious with goose is delicious with gander.

2013/02/28
5:11pm
Robert
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Yuk!  I am vegetarian.

However, the word 'the' just might raise doubt about the notion of goose meat, or even rule it out:
 
Worms for trout -> probably worms of a kind that's good for baiting trouts
Worms for the trout->probably worms for feeding the pet trout my child is raising in the backyard pond
 
Similarly, to indicate sauce that is good for eating goose meat with, it is much better to use 'sauce for goose'- no 'the.'  In other words,  'the' seems to indicate that it's not about meat.
Obviously that leaves 'sauce for the goose' sounding pretty mystifying, though mystifying doesn't say much when it comes to these old sayings.

 

2013/03/04
4:51pm
RobertB
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Then again it's not mystifying if one accepts that specific imagery: 2 carcasses on the table, one goose one gander, a carnivorous person contemplating sauce.

There are many adages based on specific imagery: The tortoise and the hare, the early bird catches the worm, the fox watches the hen house….

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