Date: Thu, 15 Jun 1995 12:05:57 -0400

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: Teen Slang Terms (Gank and Gaffle)

The second word is entirely new to me. It is "to gaffle"

(spelling?) meaning simply to steal something from someone without

violence or their awareness. As in, she didn't know it, but I gaffled

a stick of gum from her purse.

My sources are only oral. The informants had no clue as to

etymology but they said both terms were old. But then, old to

teenagers can mean last week.

In this case it's a bit older...

We have _gaffle_ in the _Random House Historical Dictionary of

American Slang_ from 1900, identified as being "Esp. Maine"

with the sense "to seize; take hold of...(hence) to

steal." Our most recent example is only 1966, so the continued

existence of the term is news to me. We suggest an etymology

of "perh. alteration of S.E. _gaff_ 'to strike (a fish) with

a gaff'" but that is probably a weak hypothesis. (We also have

a slang sense of _gaff_ meaning 'to cheat of victimize' which

doesn't appear to be related.)

We have no evidence for _gank_ other than the sources mentioned


Jesse Sheidlower

Random House Reference