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WordWealth: gam

gam (1) (gam), n. Slang.

a person's leg, esp. an attractive female leg. [1775–85; prob. < Polari < It gamba leg; see JAMB1]

gam (2) (gam), n., v., gammed, gam·ming.


1. a herd or school of whales. 2. Eastern New Eng., Naut. a social meeting, visit, or the like, as between whaling vessels at sea.


3. (of whales) to assemble into a herd or school. 4. Naut. (of the officers and crews of two whaling vessels) to visit or converse with one another for social purposes. 5. Eastern New Eng. to participate in a gam or social visit. [1840–50, Amer.; perh. dial. var. of GAME1] (Random House Webster's Unabridged). Look at Thesaurus

The two strangers discovered that they had a lot in common as they gammed the hours away on the long train ride. —— Merriam-Webster


Back in the 1990's, some Achenese were still very reticent to speak about GAM and its vision, simply because it might be viewed as being disloyal to the Indonesian establishment. Rarely back then did people gam about GAM, and definitely not in public places. At that point, gamming about how the Acheh government might look if GAM succeeded in its aims was tantamount (equal to) almost being a member of GAM and actively participating in military action. To this end, Indonesia enacted new laws designed to denigrate the image of GAM, declared "war" and instituted martial law. It also began targeting artists for their lyrics and intimidating youths for having a gam even within academic circles. To this day friends can not share their favorite songs if there is a reference to GAM or to a referendum which would promote freedom of speech. But, new laws that make it so people can not say what they think have not and never will solve the old, fundamental problems that have precipitated the decades of deadly conflict that have existed between Acheh and the government of Indonesia. —— Editor


Taylor being Taylor, the dance is not, as in many of the current popular tango entertainments, a series of actual tangos. Rather, it is an extended riff on the whole essence and idea of the tango -- not merely the form but what informs the form. That is, heat, passion, aggression, seduction, betrayal, desire, and even a touch of death, by means of the swoon and the dying fall. Costumed in full garter-belt-and-black-stockings sleaze by Santo Loquasto, Taylor's women don't so much ham it up as gam and glam it up, with a deeply vulgar and voluptuous plié by Francie Huber the iconic center of the enterprise. The Taylor men, deliciously sinister in their vestigial elements of Buenos Aires chic (picture a black vest over a bare chest), go for broke here, throwing elegance to the wings in favor of machismo. This is a particularly great moment for the company, which -- like any longtime dance group -- moves through various phases as dancers come, grow, and go. —— Nancy Dalva & John Istel; 'Dance and Theater'/Summer, When it Sizzles; the Atlantic; July 1998


What does the whaler do when she meets another whaler in any sort of decent weather? She has a Gam, a thing so utterly unknown to all other ships that they never heard of the name even; and if by chance they should hear of it, they only grin at it, and repeat gamesome stuff about spouters and blubber-boilers, and such like pretty exclamations.---There is another little item about Gamming which must not be forgotten here. All professions have their own little peculiarities of detail; so has the whale fishery. In a pirate, man-of-war, or slave ship, when the captain is rowed anywhere in his boat, he always sits in the stern sheets on a comfortable, sometimes cushioned seat there, and often steers himself with a pretty little milliner's tiller decorated with gay cords and ribbons. But the whale-boat has no seat astern, no sofa of that sort whatever, and no tiller at all. High times indeed, if whaling captains were wheeled about the water on castors like gouty old aldermen in patent chairs. And as for a tiller, the whale-boat never admits of any such effeminacy; and therefore as in gamming a complete boat's crew must leave the ship, and hence as the boat steerer or harpooneer is of the number, that subordinate is the steersman upon the occasion, and the captain, having no place to sit in, is pulled off to his visit all standing like a pine tree. And often you will notice that being conscious of the eyes of the whole visible world resting on him from the sides of the two ships, this standing captain is all alive to the importance of sustaining his dignity by maintaining his legs. —— Herman Melville; 'Moby Dick, or, The Whale', the Gam; World Wide School

Did you know? (Merriam-Webster)
"But what is a gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word." So says the narrator, who calls himself Ishmael, of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. We imagine you are also wondering what a gam is, and you’re in luck, for you will indeed find "gam" entered in dictionaries today. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun "gam" as "a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers." (It can also mean "a school of whales.") Melville’s narrator explains that when whaling ships met far out at sea, they would hail one another and the crews would exchange visits and news. English speakers have been using the word "gam" to refer to these and similar social exchanges since the mid-19th century.

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