Make the Gaffer Redundant!

I joined the meeting late and took refuge on a tiny Ottoman footstool as this serious-looking group of working class radicals met in the back of a pub, somewhere in Birmingham, England.  It was proposed that they crash a speech by Labour “life peer” and union fat cat Baroness Margaret Prosser. 

 Always cozy with the union bureaucrats as well as the “gaffers, ” at the time of her speaking event, she was a non-executive director of the Royal Mail whose “posties,” facing “the dole,” were on strike for better pay and against “privitisation” and “redundancy.”

Swimming in foreign terms, yet enjoying myself thoroughly, I mustered the guts to inquire of my nearest neighbor, “What’s a gaffer?”

“A boss,” came the reply.

During the discussion, one of the participants in the meeting suggested a leaflet stating the facts regarding this two-faced politician.  For the title he suggested, “How about ‘Prosser is a Tosser’?”  Everyone laughed.  Except me.  I grinned and looked around.  It sounded funny but I didn’t get the joke.  I leaned over once more to the kind person next to me and said, “I don’t mean to be a pain but what’s a tosser?”

“A wanker,” he says.

An image flashed in my mind of an angsty, pimply-faced guitarist strumming a vanilla Stratocaster.  After a few seconds of feigned comprehension, I twisted to a different attendee and inquired, “Hey, what’s a wanker?”

 “A masturbator.”  

Yes.  Indeed.  A masturbator.

Back at home, my Cambridge International Dictionary of English, a reliable source for British English, had this to say of tosser:  To toss off is sexually explicit language in Britain and Australia and means “to excite the sexual organs of (yourself or someone else) using your hands; to MASTURBATE” and a tosser is British slang for “a stupid or unpleasant person.”  The other definition of toss off listed is to do something quickly and carelessly or without effort.  The definitions for wanker and to wank are nearly identical to those for tosser

This was terribly funny (and still is) to think that this Baroness Prosser had a name that rhymed with beater-offer, jerk off, masturbator.  As a meeting participant quipped later, “All in all, she’s a boss and a Lord – a perfect invitee to speak at a trade union festival…”


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