WHEN it comes to the English language, many words find new meanings in relation to the subject they describe.
Here we examine the definition of the word gaffe.
What does gaffe mean?
A gaffe is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “an unintended act or remark embarrassing its author; a mistake.”
Gaffes are typically socially incorrect or rude comments — not necessarily malicious, but often poorly delivered.
What are the different uses of the word gaffe?
A political gaffe is a mistake in a politician’s speech.
In his 2020 book A Promised Land, formerly President Barack Obama defines a political slip as a term “used by the press to describe any clumsy phrase by a candidate that reveals ignorance, carelessness, fuzzy thinking, insensitivity, malice, boorishness, falsehood or hypocrisy – or simply being sufficiently far from it dissenting is conventional wisdom in making said candidate vulnerable to attack.”
More specifically, a Kinsley gaffe is when a politician reveals a truth he didn’t mean to reveal.
According to journalist Michael Kinsley, “To make a slip is when a politician is telling the truth—an obvious truth that he should not be telling.”
Traditionally, sportswriters and broadcasters label any mistake made by a player or team as a slip – including a missed shot or a dropped ball.
A philosopher or psychologist might call a faux pas a Freudian slip.
What is the origin of the word gaffe?
Gaffe, an early French word translated boat hook, also derives from the English word gaff, meaning a bug.
Although the literal translation of gaffe in French has to do with nautical gear, the word has since evolved to refer to an “awkward remark”. Etymological online dictionary.
In the 1890s, the British word gaff could mean “cheat,” “outwit,” or “criticism.”
The Old English word gafspræc loosely translated means “blasphemous or suggestive speech”.
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