A gaffer is the foreman of a stage crew. In addition, as lighting professionals know, in film and television, the gaffer is the head electrician. But do you know what the word really means? It originated in the 16th century, when gaffer was used as an altered form of godfather or grandfather. In the 19th century, a foreman or overseer was called a gaffer, particularly in the United Kingdom, and was a master glassblower. In September, I substituted for the vacationing William Safire and ...

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