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AWADmail Issue 151

January 16, 2005

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Top Words of the Year:

Rats Have Head For Language:

Word as Earworm:

From: Stuart Gross (stuart.grossATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--grip

Grip was originally used as circus term for the riggers. Movie grips are responsible for all non electrical rigging, safety, mounting and movement of the camera (dollies, cranes etc.), setting of flags, nets and diffusion for lights, reflected light (shiny boards).

Stuart Gross, Producer, UPM, Director's Guild of America

From: Jeff Sass (jeffreysassATyahoo.com)
Subject: Grip or Gripe!

Sometimes the "end credits" of a movie will provide some bonus laughs along with the names of those who have earned credit where credit is due. Years ago I had the pleasure of working for Troma, the famous (and infamous) NY Indy Film Studio that has survived 30 years of pushing the envelope (and putting some odd things in the envelope as well). Troma movies often end with some hilarious lines in the credit roll, if you take the time to read them. As for "KEY GRIP"... that credit would typically appear followed by "KEY GRIPE".

KEY GRIP...... John Smith
KEY GRIPE..... "The food stinks!"

From: Bill Moore (bill.mooreATwarnerbros.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--grip

I run the Grip Dept. at Warner Bros. Studio and I have one small correction to where the term "Grip" came from. Being a 3rd generation Grip (thank you, nepotism) my Grandfather passed on to me this history. Back in the 1920s, before IATSE unions were around, workers would stand in front of the studios waiting to be chosen for work, any work. The ones that were picked and then assigned to pick up the Actors' luggage at the train depot were called Grips. Apparently luggage items were earlier were referred to as Grips and the name transferred to those assigned to that task. When the unions came into play and jobs were divided up the name Grip stuck. Not too glamorous but that's the story.

From: Brian Temple (analogtvATbellsouth.net)
Subject: AWAD - grip

Ah, the grip; the unsung hero of media. In the television business, the terms grip and gaffer are used fairly interchangeably, but they do the same job. Grips and gaffers do all the "grunt work" of television, often setting up lights and equipment, being general help during a broadcast, then stay on as part of the crew to take everything down and stow gear.

Gaffers are especially revered in television: Our version of duct tape (which we all know holds the Universe and everything else together) is called gaffer tape. It's flat black so as to blend in with its surroundings and be virtually invisible on air.

Just like in the movies, many award-winning directors and producers worked their way up from gaffer or grip, often getting them hooked on the business for life.

From: Heather March (ideasofmarchATxtra.co.nz)
Subject: Goat wrangling

One of my goats was used recently in a horror movie, and I spent some entertaining hours encouraging him to "act" for different scenes. The best was one where I had to lie on the road, holding him and pushing bits of apple into his mouth to keep his horns steady whilst the camera shot between them. Cold, wet, and with bits of apple up my nose I finally understood the glamour of movie-making.

My screen credit is "Goat Wrangler"

From: Leigh Ann Whitson (lwhitsonATuiuc.edu)
Subject: credits

I am and always have been a "credit reader" for the rolling credits at the end of movies on TV and other TV programs. Recently, however, I have noticed a consistent practice of rolling them entirely too quickly and/or reducing them to a half or quarter screen. Both methods render them completely unreadable.

From: Louisa Nahem (nahemATsonic.net)
Subject: this week's movie terms

It's nice that attention is being paid to some more of the behind-the-scenes roles people play in the movies, but I just had to point out that even if one reads all of the sometimes seemingly endless credits after a movie, the truth is that they still just list but a small fraction of the people who actually executed the work. Generally only the lead (who is like "foreman") or maybe also the 2nd (the assistant lead) is mentioned, but they may have a dozen(s) of people working under them. For example, my husband has worked as a scenic artist for years on many movies, and to date, has only gotten one credit!

On another note, movie goers would be really surprised about how much scenic detail they miss. Production values--details, often quite intricate, are often missed entirely, not just because they are left on the cutting room floor, but because of lighting or the fleetingness of the moment. Sometimes it's really a shame too.

From: Carol Phillips (redflameATghg.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gaffer

How wonderful to know where "gaffer" comes from, also to learn the feminine.

In glass blowing, the gaffer is the man in charge, the old man who knows everything. I'd been led to believe that some people thought of it as a pejorative description of an old man, but that in glass blowing, to call someone a gaffer was a compliment, a title, not an insult. Our college instructor, who had basically taught himself to blow glass, would not accept the term, as he thought he was neither good enough nor old enough.

From: David Cooper (david.cooperATlchclearnet.com)
Subject: credits

My favourite film crew role, bucket boy, is listed in the credits for A Private Function. The film is set in post-war Britain when food rationing was in place. An illegal pig, being fattened for the said private function, is at the centre of the story. The role of the bucket boy was to clean up after the pig on the film set.

From: Robert Travis (roberttravisAThotmail.com)
Subject: Film-crew titles

Good morning---Wondered when you'd get around to this topic.

One thing to keep in mind is that every department tries hard to stay within its own craft on a movie set. Reason: when a scene is shot to the director's satisfaction, the assistant director or unit production manager says, "Let's move on." Suddenly, all the crew people who were idling around spring into action, each working strictly with his or her exact responsibilities.

So a grip would indeed work with the camera crew to relocate & set up the camera support (tripod, dolly, track, crane, etc) in its next location. The grips would indeed work with the electricians (lighting crew) but only to move all the flag/gel stands, reflectors, etc used to shape and color the light.

The electricians and lamp operators (called gaffers on the US east coast; the Gaffer in West Coast terminology is the head of the electrical department. A newish term, chief lighting technician, appears in some film credits.) handle the actual lighting units. If it's got an electrical cable attached, it's the electricians' responsibility. If the lamp operator needs a ladder to operate a lamp on a tall stand, that ladder (as well as the stand, on some sets) comes from the grip department.

True, some of these split hairs as to who does what originated on union sets, but the underlying reason is this: working in the grip department, I can't be off helping the props people, set dressers, electricians, or other random departments when it's time on the set to wrap the gripology gear and move on. There's too much stuff, too few people, and too much money involved not to stay focused on one's specific tasks: One vital person out of place at a critical moment can wreck both schedule and budget.

On occasion, the key grip or other department head might temporarily assign one of his or her crew members to help another department. But if another department needs such help, it's understaffed---a problem, short of accident or injury, which should've been foreseen and dealt with in preproduction planning.

On commercial (ad spots) sets and other smaller projects, the departmental distinctions are much less critical. There's the catchall job called grip/electric on a spot set in which responsibilities of both departments combine, for example.

Modern prose has become, like modern manners and modern dress, a good deal less formal than it was in the nineteenth century. -James Runcieman Sutherland, professor and writer (1900-1996)

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