When Sam and I were in high school together, some kids came up with a way to both humiliate and physically hurt those who failed at making a joke. We all know the scenario: the time is right for a joke, someone attempts a pun, or a putdown, or some humorous twist, and it just falls flat. Silence.
In adult conversation, this kind of thing passes with some awkwardness, and perhaps the would-be jokester falls a notch a two in the minds of those present. In high school, however, that person is toast. Especially at our high school, where some kids employed what is known as a “gaffle*”. This is how a gaffle worked. First, repeat the above scenario. Instead of awkward silence and segue, someone would yell “gaffle!” or perhaps “that was a gaffle!” The crowd would murmur in agreement. Usually the gaffler would have to admit that, yes, that joke failed–and miserably. Then, the person who called the gaffle would slap the gafflers hand. The slap could range from the proverbial “slap on the wrist” re-turned to its non-proverbial state to a full-scale, leap from atop a great height and slap the person’s hand with two hands in full windup. The whole thing was taken very seriously, I assure you.
*I assume the word gaffle is related somehow to the word gaffe, which means, of course an unintentional act or remark causing embarrassment to its originator; a blunder. The person who created “gaffle” either simply mispronounced the word, or wanted to differentiate the gaffle from the gaffe, which generally is not followed by violence, except in instances when the blunder is some kind of culturally sensitive act, like showing the soles of ones shoes to Saddam Hussein.
Sam adds the following: “It’s a combination of a gaffe and a gavel, that rains down on your hand, as harsh physical punishment for the gaffe that you just committed.” ‘Nuff said.
Here at Miss Fairchild, the gaffle made something of a comeback lately, when we had to start calling one another on misplaced humor–seriously, we don’t have time for good jokes let alone bad ones; we just don’t have enough time together. Anyhow, not wanting to actually cause violence to one another (remember Sammy Bananas and Daddy Wrall aren’t all that big), we accidentally invented a “get out of gaffle free card.”
It’s called a melvin, and it’s very much like a mulligan, except it applies less to golf and more to gaffes, such as gaffles. The origin is a little unclear. Someone (Daddy Wrall says that it was me) said something that sounded remarkable similar to, “I’m going to use my melvin on that,” to which he responded, “Did you you just say ‘I’m going to use my melvin on that’?” I said, “Wait, did you think I just said ‘I’m going to use my melvin on that’?” This went on for a moment, until Sammy Bananas said, “Is a melvin like a mulligan?” and I, in a moment of kindness and friendship, wanting to provide a respite for all the gavels that had rained down upon his hand, said “Yes! For gaffles.”
We decided that you get one melvin per day, but can borrow unlimitedly from future days. We assume that the person will never run out of eligible days, so they only get gaffled if they forget to invoke the melvin. Well, we rarely want to gaffle anybody. The only time I can even remember using the gaffle recently was just before Friends Thanksgiving, when Sammy said, of his own joke, “that was a gaffle” and then held out his hand. What a good sport!