Posted by ESC on March 02, 2005
In Reply to: Gandy Dancer posted by R. Berg on March 01, 2005
: : I have not seen anywhere else the following explanation:
: : In the Norse Eddas, there is an character who uses a wand or stick as a magic tool. The Norse word GANDR is tranlated as "wand" or "staff" and is a word still used in several websites on modern Norse/Viking/pagan rituals.
: : The Edda refers to this character as GANDR-Alf (although he is a dwarf, not an elf!) Prof. J.R.R.Tolkien used most of the Edda dwarf-names in the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but this one was reserved for the archtypical wizard with his long staff. The name... GANDALF!
: : The connection with the long-handled (Irish) railway shovels and any such tool is obvious.
: : Indeed I remember (vaguely, unfortunately) a science-fiction short story by one of the "classic" authors - Van Vogt perhaps - where a character earns a small income by sweeping ,i.e. being a broom operative, or "GANDY DANCER"
: : Any comments?
: I haven't seen that explanation anywhere else, either.
All I know about "gandy dancer" is that it refers to a railroad employee who repairs tracks.
Gandy dancer -- "a well known term by 1915 and said by some to have been a hobo term for the hobos and tramps who did such work when they felt like it, it may have been used by railroaders as early as the 1860s. It's from the gooselike, or ganderlike, rhythmic movement of the workers tamping the ties and gravel and straightening rails." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).
More discussion about the origins of the phrase at http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/32/messages/585.html