“The dictionary meaning of ‘gaffe’ is a social error or faux pas. The term probably entered politics courtesy of newspaper headline writers, who have a professional need for words of few letters. Of course ‘lie’ has even fewer letters than ‘gaffe,’ but lies by politicians are not news. A ‘gaffe’ is the opposite of a ‘lie’: it's when a politician inadvertently tells the truth.” —American political commentator and editor Michael Kinsley, “Home Truths,” The New Republic, May 28, 1984
This is really one of the classic definitions of a term that has come into common use in politics and journalism. For a long time, “gaffe” seemed synonymous with any statement embarrassing enough to force a politician from a race, or at least stymie his momentum. These days, though, that rule of thumb has gone out the window, along with much else in the conventional journalism playbook.
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