Fox Talbot says this is St. John's berry, being ripe about St.
John's Day. [This must be John the Baptist, at the end of August, not
John the Evangelist, at the beginning of May.] Hence, he says, it is
called in Holland Jansbeeren. Jans'-beeren, he continues, has
been corrupted into Gansbeeren, and Gans is the German for goose. This
is very ingenious, but gorse (furze) offers a simpler
derivation. Gorse-berry (the prickly berry) would be like the
German stachel-beere (the “prickly berry”), and kraus—
beere (the rough gooseberry), from krauen (to scratch).
Krausbeere, Gorse-berry, Gooseberry. In Scotland it is called grosser. (See Bear's Garlick.)
To play gooseberry
is to go with two lovers for appearance' sake. The person “who
plays propriety” is expected to hear, see, and say nothing. (See
He played up old gooseberry with me.
He took great liberties with my property, and greatly abused it; in
fact, he made gooseberry fool of it. (See below.)
A corruption of gooseberry foulé, milled, mashed,
pressed. The French have foulé de pommes; foulé de raisins; foulé de
groseilles, our “gooseberry fool.”
Gooseberry fool is a compound made of gooseberries scalded and
pounded with cream.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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