As you may have heard a few weeks back, Donald J. Trump, while trashing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the world, promoted himself from a “Stable Genius” to an “Extremely Stable Genius.” This on the telly! To the World! Shamelessly! I mean, where’s the modesty?
Okay, so I’m jealous. I haven’t received a promotion in years and I think I deserve one. So I’m taking my lead from our alleged leader and giving myself a new brand on my own. I am no longer a “geezer” (see book title above); I’m a “gaffer.”
An explanation may be in order. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been in love with words. Their meanings, their sounds, their origins…everything about them.
Back when I was a teenager, for instance, I looked forward to the arrival each month of the family’s Readers’ Digest, so I could take the build-your-vocabulary test before anybody else could read of the latest cancer cure. When I returned from Korean War duty in the Air Force, I enrolled in UCLA as an English major. Words. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I switched to journalism for my master’s degree. Words, words. After that I worked for 20 years on newspapers and magazines, then wrote books, then returned to university life to teach journalism and literature. Words, words, words. A lifetime of total immersion in words. Then I retired and somewhere along the way picked up the “geezer” tag.
Shame of shames for a self-described word man! I never even bothered to look up the meaning of the word until last week, and was I surprised when I did! Pejorative, derogatory, putdown definitions abound: odd, cranky, crotchety, eccentric, a cantankerous old man, the toothless guy you see squatting outside a bar with the day’s painkiller concealed in a brown paper bag.
That is not I! I may be a bit odd if you think wearing your clothes inside-out half the time qualifies, but otherwise I’m a kind, reasonable, self-medicating, with-it senior citizen, and if you don’t believe me, you can check with…well, just take my word on it.
Call me a gaffer now. Truth is, I didn’t know the precise meaning of that word either, until I looked up “geezer.” I had seen the word “gaffer” before on the film-end credits of movies and television shows, and assumed it humored the dotty old guy who polished the camera lens. Wrong again. Turns out the specialized meaning of gaffer identifies the chief electrician of said productions.
The word in its other definition is primarily used by the Brits, and thought by some etymologists to be a sixteenth century contraction of “godfather.” Gaffer is “often used affectionately;” it also denotes a “boss,” or “foreman.” Sounds like my kind of word…made for me.
Isn’t it odd that Dear Leader’s false vanity should have led me to find my true identity? There must be a word for that. I’ll have to look it up.