gammed
Posted: 12 July 2012 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I had just started Nathan Heller’s long piece on TED talks in last week’s New Yorker (too long for me—it outlasted my interest in TED talks, and I moved on halfway through) when I hit this stumbling block: “It was the second full day of the TED ideas conference, and in the lobby outside the theatre doors more than a thousand men and women milled and gammed and ate lunch in the winter sun.” The only gam I know is the motheaten slang term for ‘leg,’ which 1) is a noun, and 2) doubtless hasn’t been seen in the NYkr in decades.  Is this some piece of youthful jargon that has heretofore passed me by?

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Posted: 12 July 2012 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED verbs:

1. intr. Of whales: To gather together and form a ‘gam’ or school.

And 3. U.S. slang. ‘To engage in social intercourse; to make a call; to have a chat’ (Farmer).

edit: I’m not sure what (Farmer) means there. Is it a citation?

[ Edited: 12 July 2012 05:45 AM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 12 July 2012 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Huh.  So it’s not a piece of youthful jargon, it’s a piece of ancient slang that a New Yorker writer, for reasons best known to himself, thought would be a groovy thing to drop into his hip, with-it article.  I don’t know, I just don’t know.  But thanks!

(Farmer.)

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Posted: 12 July 2012 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well, it certainly would have added a little spice to the article for any British readers.

From OED:

gam, v.2

slang (chiefly Brit.)

trans. To perform fellatio on (a man).

1973 T. Pynchon Gravity’s Rainbow i. 35 Knowing Bloat, perhaps that’s what it is, young lady gamming well-set-up young man.
1993 J. Meades Pompey (1994) 33 The day before he reported to Woolwich he had strapped her to her parents’ bed with his Sam Browne and, while she gammed him, talked of the opportunities for converting belligerent explosives into fireworks that must exist in Germany.
1998 I. Rankin Hanging Garden (1999) vi. 78 She’s on her knees gamming some fat bloke.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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!

I hope the magazine gets some letters about that!

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Posted: 12 July 2012 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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It’s an English slang abbreviation of the French expression gamahucher, to perform oral sex (the noun for the act is gamahuche). Englishmen, who frequently shape foreign words to their own ends (no pun intended), sometimes render the word as “Gammeroosh”. Anyone sufficiently interested could probably find the term somewhere in the works of Henry Miller, or possibly in My Secret Life.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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edit: I’m not sure what (Farmer) means there. Is it a citation?

Probably a reference to A dictionary of slang and colloquial English by John S. Farmer and William E. Henely.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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As I parenthesized above, perhaps too laconically.

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Posted: 12 July 2012 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Sorry, somehow I overlooked that.

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Posted: 13 July 2012 04:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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HDAS has much more extensive entries than the OED. It pushes the term back into the early nineteenth century, and clearly establishes that the usage comes from whaling. Lots of citations from Melville referring to both whales and people.

HDAS also has to gamahuche, which it notes is chiefly British but occasionally found in American usage, but it doesn’t have the clipping gam.

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Posted: 13 July 2012 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave Wilton - 13 July 2012 04:01 AM

HDAS has much more extensive entries than the OED. It pushes the term back into the early nineteenth century, and clearly establishes that the usage comes from whaling. Lots of citations from Melville referring to both whales and people.

Thanks to LH and Doc for the Farmer link. He also links the usage to whaling. He (they) define “gamming” as “a whaleman’s term for visits by crews to each other at sea.” No date for either term.

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Posted: 13 July 2012 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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This from Jack London’s Sea Wolf:

I ran forward and had the downhaul of the flying jib all in and fast as we slipped by the boat a hundred feet to leeward.  The three men in it gazed at us suspiciously.  They had been hogging the sea, and they knew Wolf Larsen, by reputation at any rate.  I noted that the hunter, a huge Scandinavian sitting in the bow, held his rifle, ready to hand, across his knees.  It should have been in its proper place in the rack.  When they came opposite our stern, Wolf Larsen greeted them with a wave of the hand, and cried:

“Come on board and have a ’gam’!”

“To gam,” among the sealing-schooners, is a substitute for the verbs “to visit,” “to gossip.” It expresses the garrulity of the sea, and is a pleasant break in the monotony of the life.

Published in 1904. These were seal hunters. IIRC, London spent some time on shipboard as a very young man. For clarification, the hunter is not Wolf Larsen but a much larger Scandinavian who is rightfully terrified of Larsen. The irony of the term, gam, becomes clear when Larsen singlehandedly overpowers him and puts him in chains because of some rivalry.

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Posted: 14 July 2012 02:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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One wonders if gam has any relationship to the earlier verb gammer, to idle, which OED tentatively connects to the old noun gammer, “a rustic title for an old woman”, as in the old play Gammer Gurton’s Needle, which I see is the earliest cite for the word.

gammer, v.

Etymology:  Perhaps < gammer n.; compare gossip, French commérage, etc.
dial.

intr. To idle.

1788 W. Marshall Provincialisms E. Yorks. in Rural Econ. Yorks. II. 331 To Gammer, to idle.
1876 F. K. Robinson Gloss. Words Whitby, ‘Gying gammering about’, sauntering and tattling all over.

gammer, n.

Etymology:  See gaffer n. The spelling gandmer in 1589 shows that the word was then regarded as a corruption of grandmother.

A rustic title for an old woman; the female counterpart of gaffer n.

1575 (title) A ryght pithy, pleasaunt an[d] merie comedie: Intytuled Gammer gurtons nedle.

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Posted: 14 July 2012 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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On the theory that whaling words might have appeared in English via the Icelandic/Scottish route, there’s also an old Scottish word in the Dictionary of the Scots Language:

Gamin, Gam(m)yn, v.  [ME. gamm-, gamen, OE. gamenian, ON. gamna.] intr. and refl. To sport, disport oneself. — Quhen hyr list to gamyn and play; Troy-bk. i. 455.  He lewch and gammynit in that tyde; Wynt. i. 449 (W).  With the maydins ʒow gammyn, and prufe Gif thare be ony that ʒe wald lufe; Alex. ii. 1959.  Quhen vther folk to battell can ga, Than fleis thow to wod to gamin, To sport thé and thy hounds samin; Ib. 2712.

Troy-bk. [c1400] Die Fragmente des Trojankrieges. Barbour, John. In Des schottischen Nationaldichters Legendensammlung nebst den Fragmenten seines Trojankrieges Horstmann, C. (ed.); Henniger, Heilbronn, 1882, pp 215–304. (DOST Lib.)

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