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Pronounced /ˈɡæfɪeɪt/Help with pronunciation

Don’t bother to look this one up in your dictionary, as the chances are slim that you will find it. I was baffled by it when it turned up in David Langford’s science-fiction newsletter Ansible Link: “As fans die or gafiate ...” (that word ansible is another very interesting bit of specialist SF vocabulary).

Mr Langford tells me that it’s a well-known bit of SF fan slang, derived from the acronym GAFIA “Getting Away From It All” and that it was originally used in the sense of finding SF fans’ organisations (fandom) but soon changed to its opposite — leaving fandom. The noun and verb almost inevitably followed.

This is another example of its use:

“We heard you”d gafiated.” “Fafiated.” She looked him straight in the eye, daring him to disagree. She hadn’t gotten away from it all; she’d been forced away from it all.

Fallen Angels, by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn, 1991.

The word may date back to the early days of SF fandom in the 1940s, or perhaps even the 1930s. However, the first written example quoted in Jeff Prucher’s The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction is this:

Westlake’s piece is so reminiscent of the old days of fandom, when no gafiate felt he had actually departed until he had alienated everybody on his mailing list.

From a letter in the Xero fan magazine (fanzine), dated 1962, quoted in The Best of Xero, by Pat Lupoff and Dick Lupoff, 2005.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 11 Jul. 1998
Last updated: 31 Oct. 2009

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-gaf1.htm
Last modified: 31 October 2009.