Cliff Sims, Donald Trump’s former media aide, has just published Team of Vipers, a book about his time in the White House, and rebutted the president’s tweet that he had been “nothing more than a gofer”. This was not a typo for “golfer”, but some media corrected Trump by saying he had called Sims a “gopher”. Who was right?
A gopher is a cute furry animal that digs underground: the term has been applied to burrowing rodents, squirrels and tortoises. (It derives from the French gaufre, perhaps because that word also means “honeycomb”, evoking the critters’ holes.) By analogy, a “gopher man” in early 20th-century thieves’ cant was someone who tunnelled under a bank to blow up its vault, and “gophering” was small-scale mining.
“Gofer”, meanwhile, is a concatenation of “go for”, and means someone who runs errands, such as getting coffee. But the OED says it is “influenced by gopher”, in the sense of a diminutive seeker working in obscurity, and it has been spelled both ways since the 1960s.
In 2017, a man was allegedly seen illegally shooting gophers on one of Trump’s golf courses, so we can assume the president has little respect for either animal.
Source: The Guardian