1 2 3
Does anyone know what 'playing gooseberry' means in: "I had a strong feeling of playing gooseberry; I certainly took little part in the conversation."

"In British informal use, someone who plays gooseberry is a third person who stays in the company of ... it arose from the charity of the chaperon occupying herself in picking gooseberries while the lovers were more romantically occupied."

Or from suggesting that only a fool would intrude so, a gooseberry fool, a gooseberry.

John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply

Doesn't it mean the fifth wheel or the third erson who makes two a crowd?

Yes it does. "Playing gooseberry" is what you do when you hang around two people who are in love, and prevent them from doing anything about it by your presence. It's probably dated, for in recent years I've not seen anybody holding back when others are around...

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Quiet part of Hertfordshire
England
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
As others have said, it is a common expression meaning to go out with a couple of lovers, therefore being something of a spare part. Sometimes I've heard the expression "playing goosegog", meaning the same.

"Goosegogs" is a common word for the fruit "gooseberries" in the Midlands. Pronounced guz-gog.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Quiet part of Hertfordshire
England
Does anyone know what 'playing gooseberry' means in: "I had a strong feeling of playing gooseberry; I certainly took little part in the conversation."

I didn't, but the OED does:
'5. A chaperon or one who ‘plays propriety’ with a pair of lovers, esp. in to play gooseberry. (Cf. gooseberry-picker in 8.)
1837 J. F. Palmer Devonsh. Gloss., Gubbs, a go-between orgooseberry. ‘To play gooseberry’ is to give a pretext to two young people to be together. 1870 R. Broughton Red as Rose I. 169 Gooseberry I may be...but, at all events, I won't be instrumental in making myself so. 1881 W. E. Norris Matrim. I. 21 Let the old woman choose between playing gooseberry or loitering behind alone. 1889 G. Allen Tents of Shem II. 118 Madame didn't know a single word of English and was, therefore, admirably adapted...for enacting with effect the part of the common or garden gooseberry.'

Charles Riggs
Email address: chriggs¦at¦eircom¦dot¦net
Charles Riggs cited:
1837 J. F. Palmer Devonsh. Gloss., Gubbs, a go-between or gooseberry. ‘To play gooseberry’ is to give a pretext to two young people to be together.

I suggest this usage has fallen into disuse, insofar as it implies assistance to the couple; I believe the prevailing import nowadays is that the gooseberry's presence is unhelpful.
Paul Buswell
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Yes it does. "Playing gooseberry" is what you do when you hang around two people who are in love, and ... by your presence. It's probably dated, for in recent years I've not seen anybody holding back when others are around...

Nowadays the term is 'forming a threesome'.

Paul
My Lake District walking site (updated 29th September 2003): http://paulrooney.netfirms.com
Please sponsor me for the London Marathon at:
http://www.justgiving.com/london2004
Doesn't it mean the fifth wheel or the third erson who makes two a crowd?

Yes it does. "Playing gooseberry" is what you do when you hang around two people who are in love, and ... it by your presence. It's probably dated, for in recent yearsI've not seen anybody holding back when others are around...

Hmm. Read the two entries from Phrase & Fable dictionaries which I quoted in response to this. They suggest that the "gooseberry" term arises figuratively from the third person's attempts to be UNobtrusive, rather than its reverse.
And I see that the OED entry posted by Charles hints at this too.

Matti
Two other mysterious games are 'grandmother's footsteps':

(talking about paratroopers)
"As for the Germans, even those who landed unwounded and unseen in a vineyard or field of barley could not fight effectively until they found their weapons. And if a container had fallen in the open, retrieving it was like a murderous game of grandmother's footsteps."

And l'Attaque:
"The image of the secret agent is strongly imprinted on the imagination of anyone who in childhood played the war game l'Attaque - a sinister civilian figure parting the grasses to spy on the brightly uniformed soldiers honourably and conspicuously engaged in combat."

I wonder if l'Attaque is like Stratego?
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Or from suggesting that only a fool would intrude so, a gooseberry fool, a gooseberry.

Is a gooseberry fool related to playing gooseberry? Dictionary.com suggests it comes with wearing a cap:
A silly person; a goose cap. Goldsmith
It's also a dessert:
http://www.hwatson.force9.co.uk/cookbook/recipes/desserts/gooseberryfool.htm
Show more