Hard to believe, but it’s been more than ten years since I looked at “faff.” The verb means dither or fuss, and is usually followed by about. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first citation, from an 1874 volume called Yorkshire Oddities, suggests that it originated as a regionalism: “T’ clock~maker‥fizzled an’ faff’d aboot her, but nivver did her a farthing’s worth o’ good.” There’s also a noun form, as in a 1960 OED citation: “Dithering about in a perpetual faff.”
Back in 2012, I labeled the word an “Outlier,” as I could find it only in one episode of Parks and Recreation and in some pieces by a New York Times sports blogger.
I was inspired to look at the word anew because Nancy Friedman sent me a tweet (remember those?) from Rick Wilson (@The RickWilson) that begins: “A bit of faffing about on the anti-anti-Trump right at the moment).”
I checked around and and found a reasonable amount of “faffing” including:
- From a 2018 Times soccer article: “But he faffed around and did not shoot”
- A 2019 article about skiing in China: “After much Google translating and faffing about, we got a ticket with ridiculously short skis and poles for about 130 renminbi, or less than $19.”
- A tweet today from someone in Atlanta referring to “generic whine-on-Twitter faff.”
I have therefore upgraded “faff” to On the Radar.
And while I have your attention, I’ll note that the blog is up to 2,997,000 and some page views. That means it will hit three million within the next week. I’d like to set up some kind of doohickey where the three millionth person gets regaled with song and virtual fireworks, but that’s a bit beyond my capacity. I’ll have to settle for alerting you when I hit the milestone.
As always, thanks for reading and commenting.