Green’s Dictionary of Slang

gaff n.2

[? SE gaff, the steel spur attached to a fighting cock; ? Fr. gaffe, a verbal blunder or Scot. gaff, to talk loudly and merrily or dial. gaff, loud, coarse talk]

1. an outcry, a noise [? also link to gaff n.1 (1), a fair, where ‘outcry’ would naturally be the order of any day].

[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy II 267: Stifle e’en a bull-dog’s gaff.

2. a chat, a gossip.

[UK]‘Epistle from Joe Muggins’s Dog’ in Era (London) 28 Nov. 4/1: I thought I’d have a bit of a gaff with ‘Tats’ yard-dog.

3. (also gaffery) humbug, nonsense; rumour.

[UK]‘Epistle from Joe Muggins’s Dog’ in Era (London) 3 Mar. 3/3: I set it down as all ‘gaff’ to drive ther animal back in ther bettin.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 312: I also saw that Jemmy’s blowing up of me wos all gaff. He knew as well as I did the things left the shop all right.
[UK]Illus. Police News 9 Nov. 12/3: ‘No gab or gaffery here’.
[UK]E. Raymond Tell England (1965) 251: Don’t stand there talking such gaff.
[Aus]R.S. Close Love me Sailor 179: Aw, shut yer bloody gaff.
[US]P. Rabe Benny Muscles In (2004) 284: You think I’m a dumb country cop, huh? Listening to your gaff.
[US]H. Ellison ‘Have Coolth’ in Gentleman Junkie (1961) 130: He had talent; not the kind of gaff the village phonies put out, but the real thing.

4. (US) constructed with the, a dismissal; ridicule.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 65: If he gets the gaff he’ll be flat on his back.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 211: A Pure Girl suffers a lot at the hands of a Viper in a Riding Costume, but finally wins out and slips him the Gaff.

5. (US) severe treatment, criticism, punishment or hardship.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 391: All of us present [stopped drinking] when the gaff got too strong and we had to.
[US]A.H. Lewis ‘The Humming Bird’ in Sandburrs 28: It seems them Indians gives him d’ Hummin’ Boid; an’ dey gives him d’ gaff too deep.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 36: gaff [...] An offensive action, thing or condition, of vague, complex or undetermined meaning. It is variously employed or construed to mean defeat, punishment, failure, or the instruments of these.
[UK]Wodehouse Leave it to Psmith (1993) 461: Yes, I should imagine that that would stick the gaff into the course of true love to no small extent.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 82: Gaff.—Punishment; a hard pace.
[US]A. Kapelner Lonely Boy Blues (1965) 42: I can take your gaff, Pop. I’m hard alla way through.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 800: gaff—Punishment; a hard pace.

6. a legitimate job, work.

[UK]‘Sapper’ Human Touch 26: Now in your gaff – teaching figures an’ all that sort of thing – mistakes don’t matter.

7. talk.

[UK]J. Manchon Le Slang.

8. interrogation.

[US]S. Lewis Main Street (1921) 4: I get so dog-gone impatient with people that can’t stand the gaff.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 254: Gaff, police examination or interrogation.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 53: Why do all of us have to take the cop’s gaff if we know Chink did it?

9. (Ulster) rumour, .

[US]J. O’Connor Come Day – Go Day (1984) 152: ‘Many out?’ ‘It’s packed! You missed the gaff. The preacher got threw in.’ .

In phrases

give the gaff (v.) (also put the gaff into)

to deliver severe treatment/criticism; to tease.

Herald (Los Angeles) 28 Oct. 9/1: Mills was doing de right thing to cut off de revenue. That was de only way to put de gaff into the enemy.
L. Steffens in McClure’s Mag. Oct. 563: ‘Good,’ they cheer, when you find fault; ‘give us the gaff. We deserve it and it does us good.’ [DA].
[US]E.W. Townsend Sure 62: [D]e gang give us de gaff for fair, when dey pipes us in de carriage.
[US]Wash. Post 3 July 3/1: ‘Yer don’t have ter put the gaff inter me that strong,’ remonstrated Joe.
Bismark Daily Trib. 23 Dec. 4/1: The Valley City Times-Record puts the gaff to Col. Bloom in this wise, which [...] is cold turkey talk.
hand the gaff (v.)

to beat up.

[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of The Toilsome Ascent’ in Ade’s Fables 183: About the time he came up for re-election, a lot of Character-Assassins tried to shell-road him and hand him the Gaff .
stand the gaff (v.) (US)

1. (also get the gaff, take the gaff) to receive severe treatment, criticism etc.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 8 Feb. 11/2: Jackson may be as courageous as any pugilist who ever stood In a prize ring, but many claim that he will not, to use a cock-fighting phrase, ‘stand the gaffs’.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 111: If he gets the gaff, he’ll be flat on his back.
[US]W.M. Raine Bucky O’Connor (1910) 244: Neil has got to stand the gaff for what he’s done, but I’ll pull wires to get his punishment made light.
R.M. LaFollette Autobiog. 435: Bob has been taking the gaff all these years, and isn’t going to take it alone any longer [DA].
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 58: If you can stand the gaff I may be able to use you in the city serious.
[US]J. Lait ‘Pics’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 268: Every picture-printing sheet besieged, stormed, bombarded that lone castle with its garrison of one old housekeeper. And how she stood the gaff!
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 14 Nov. 19/1: They did not like to see one of their own Gang put out in front to get the Gaff [...] They preferred that it should be some Dead Card who wore Congress Gaiters and Throat Warmers.
[US]A.C. Inman 17 Oct. diary in Aaron (1985) 320: He will not be able to stand the gaff, lacks the spine.
[Aus](con. 1830s–60s) ‘Miles Franklin’ All That Swagger 205: A decent man always holds his tongue and stands the gaff if a woman is concerned.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 55: Hazel and Abbott [...] could not stand the gaff and never played their little game again.
[US]S.J. Perelman letter 21 Jan. in Crowther Don’t Tread on Me (1987) 83: Ordinary air mail stationery will never stand the gaff.
[US]F. Brown Madball (2019) 142: [of indigestion] ‘By all means, if your stomach will stand the gaff’.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 293: I was determined to work him till his ass dragged, but Levin stood the gaff.
[US]S. Longstreet Flesh Peddlers (1964) 196: Yeah, ole Booley couldn’t stand the gaff.
[US]J. Ciardi A Second Browser’s Dict. 107: Stand the gaff. To bear up under punishment, pain, stress.

2. (also take the gaff) to suffer interrogation, beatings, or any adverse conditions.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 200: There’s been about forty or fifty of the junipers that shipped in Mare Island [...] jumped her down here – couldn’t stand the gaff.
D. Runyon ‘Pal’ in Goodwin’s Wkly (Salt Lake City, UT) 2 Dec. 6/3: But I’ve heard Pal laugh as he stood the gaff for me in the Third Degree.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 67: As long as they don’t nab him and put it to him. He can’t stand the gaff.
[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 332/1: gaff, n. Pressure, third degree: ‘he stood the gaff.’.
[US] ‘The Open Book’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 116: Take that gunsel from out in Dakota, / Who claims he can ‘sure stand the gaff,’ / Though raised on the prairies, he only knows dairies, / And was caught stealing milk from a calf.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 208/1: Stand the gaff. 1. To withstand legal prosecution and persecution without confessing or involving one’s accomplices. 2. (P) To serve a prison term without compromising one’s underworld principles. [Ibid.] 252: Yuh never could take the gaff!

3. to sustain a situation, good or bad.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 79: Yuh couldn’t stand the gaff.
[US]Van Loan ‘Sporting Doctor’ in Taking the Count 37: Are you willing to stand the gaff and give me a chance to prove that this article is all wrong.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 146: You would be a man who couldn’t stand the gaff, not to be trusted and therefore you would never be able to market your brains and capabilities again.

In exclamations

stow your gaff!

be quiet!

[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 51: Stow yer gaff [...] and let’s have no more chaff.
[Aus]Aus. Jrnl 22 128: ‘Well, stow your gaff, then,’ grumbled Mr. Gabbett, ‘and let's have no more chaff’ .
[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 15 Oct. 6/4: Stow yer gaff, the es roche (horse) was mine.
[UK]Yorks. Eve. Post 27 Sept. 2/7: His sergeant answered: ‘You stow your gaff’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Nov. 47/1: ‘Oh! stow yer gaff, for ’Eaven’s sake,’ young Jack McCluskey said. / ‘The man that drinks your whisky best, ’e drinks it when ’e’s dead.’.