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My Mom used to say "wild razoo" when she was talking about someone attempting or trying something in a frantic way. She was of Irish descent. I don't know how to spell it. I sure would like to know how to spell it and its origin.

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    I'm not sure that this question is appropriate for EL&U since it's not an English word, and may just be idiosyncratic to your mother. But to help, a little digging makes me think it must be related to the irish word rás which means race (ie. a sporting contest where the fastest wins.) Perhaps she was saying rás siúil which is a (walking) foot race. – ghoppe Dec 22 '15 at 19:20
  • Is your question how to find such information, or are you just asking for the information? Those are two different requests. – Drew Dec 22 '15 at 21:28
  • hi @kathat as a new user you should TICK a useful answer below. Seasons greets – Fattie Dec 27 '15 at 0:49
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    Razoo as a "charge" seems to be perfect here, surely it's indeed the same word, nice one JEL. – Fattie Dec 27 '15 at 0:51
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With the spellings 'razu' and 'razzu' I found nothing that seemed pertinent, that is, only references to terms and names from India. With the spelling 'razoo', however, a number of slang and dialect senses appeared.

Two slang senses were common enough to appear in general reference sources. Both these slang uses of 'razoo' are described by the general reference sources as being of uncertain origin.

The more common slang sense, from OED Online, seems to approximate the sense your mother used, 'a charge, a sortie'.

Origin unknown.
U.S. slang.
A charge, a sortie. Hence also: a lively or boisterous outing or social occasion.
1864 Newark (Ohio) Advocate 19 Aug. 4/1 The rebs occupy the works we left, and this morning, before we had breakfast, they made a little ‘razoo’ (as the boys say) on us, causing us to get into our rifle pits double quick, but they soon withdrew.
1911 Coshocton (Ohio) Daily Tribune 16 Feb. 3/2 I'm feeling like having one more rip-roaring razoo with you for the sake of old times.
1926 Daily Kennebec Jrnl. (Augusta, Maine) 5 Oct. 3/4 At the first official ‘razoo’ last evening,..ten of the more emerald-hued freshmen were honored at a special reception given by the sophs.
1970 Amarillo (Texas) Globe-Times 22 Jan. 20/2 The bull made another razoo into the crowd of Mexicans.
2003 Charleston (W. Va.) Gaz. (Nexis) 24 Jan. 9 a, Geordie patiently pulled him out of the way, started on the puzzle again, when Neil made another razoo and gleefully scattered the pieces again.

["razoo, n.1". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/270958?rskey=60Z99n&result=1&isAdvanced=false (accessed December 22, 2015).]

The 1864 quote using 'razoo' in the sense of 'a charge, a sortie' is the earliest use I found.

Razoo, used as the title of a periodical published by a Saint Paul (MN) advertising agency in the early 1900s, is consistent with the slang sense given by OED Online of 'a charge, a sortie'. The periodical and its contents are considered the 'razoo'.

Some of the contents of the periodical are preserved in a book published in 1909, called simply A Book, with this foreword:

razoo4

(Foreword from A Book, Sauntering Silas, Razoo Press, 1909.)

The other common slang sense is from New Zealand and Australia, where 'razoo' is used in phrases meaning, generally, that the speaker has no money.

  1. Austral and NZ an imaginary coin: not a brass razoo; they took every last razoo.
    [C20: of uncertain origin]

[Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged. S.v. "razoo." Retrieved December 22 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/razoo .]

The New Zealand and Australian slang sense is negative in that the slang is ordinarily used to say one hasn't a 'razoo', but not to say that one has such a coin.

An 1893 text, Some Peculiarities of Speech in Mississippi attests to a different sense than is attested by the quotes in the OED Online. This text also suggests the origin of the verb 'razoo' may be from 'to cut with a razor', or from 'razee' (meaning, loosely, 'to dicker or bargain down'):

razoo2

(From Some Peculiarities of Speech in Mississippi, Hubert Anthony Shands Norwood Press, 1893.)

Another slang use seems to have been with the sense of 'bite', as in the 'bite' of acrid smoke:

razoo3

(From an ad for Prince Albert tobacco in Popular Mechanics, Nov 1914.)

'Razoo' also appears as part of several school cheers. The sense of 'razoo' in these cheers is minimal, or it is altogether nonsensical. Here is a representative one:

enter image description here

(From The College Year-Book and Athletic Record, 1897)

Finally, a use that seems to be in the sense of a 'hazing' or 'harassment' similar to those conferred upon new members of college fraternities, but here referring to members of the fraternity of railroad locomotive mechanics generally:

razoo5

(From the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen's Magazine, Volume 44, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, 1908.)

Probably coincidentally, a Portuguese phrase documented in an 1813 Portuguese-English Dictionary and meaning 'to swerve from reason' appears to use razoo in the sense of 'reason':

portugese razoo, probably a typo

(From Dictionary of the Portuguese & English Languages: Portugese and English, Antonio Vieyra, F. Wingrave, 1813.)

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  • spectacular answer – Fattie Dec 27 '15 at 0:48
  • The last two are probably due to printing errors. In the Portuguese example, "razão" (reason) has been misprinted as "razoö". Similarly, the Spanish one can be observed to contain a mis-struck "n", so the actual word is "razón" (reason), with the accent omitted. – augurar Dec 27 '15 at 21:08
  • @JEL The Spanish one is obviously an OCR error due to imperfect printing, you can see the last character is an "n" by visual inspection. I'm not familiar with Portuguese, modern or historical, so it's possible that "razoö" or "razoõ" was an alternate spelling of "razão". For instance this 1837 book uses both "razão" and "razaõ" on the same page. Anyway I'm inclined to think it's not relevant to the OP's question. – augurar Dec 28 '15 at 0:17
  • I like the 'charge' or 'sortie', but the Irish answer by ghoppe really sounded like it . She used a lot of Irish slang and words I had to look up over the years.She used the word when she was talking about someone taking a 'wild razoo' at doing something.Thanks everybody – kathat Dec 28 '15 at 19:11
  • @augurar The Portuguese dictionary linked to contains the word razoo in five places according to the OCR-based search feature – all five of them clearly read razaõ as you suspected. Interestingly, the one included in the answer here doesn’t seem to appear in the search results anymore, at least not on my phone. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 3 '19 at 22:15
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Razoo was only used in one game of competition we played when we were kids. It was also the closest thing to gambling we were allowed. Marbles. Everything you knocked out of the circle was yours. At the end of a normal game, everyone gathered their marbles in a gentlemanly manner and went about their business. If during a game there was a sudden interruption of any kind razoo came into play. A mother calling one of the kids playing to come home, or the recess bell ringing. Someone would call "Razoo" and it was a free-for-all gathering the last marbles in the ring. I don't know why. Many of the things I learned as a child were taken on faith. I'm not sure which one. Joe Paul

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When I was a child in New Orleans ( 1946-1952) the word razoo was used in a game of marbles. It was like a scramble to get as many marbles as you could. Joe Paul's previous answer is right on. I forgot about that word until a restaurant opened in the Houston area named "Razzoo"s".

Also, there was an old man who used to walk on Constance St. and announce to the kids playing in the street that he had a pocket full of nickels. We'd all gather around until he threw them in the air. As he did this he'd shout "Razoo"!

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