Monday, June 05, 2006

RLH: WORDS, WORDS, WORDS


Here are a few interesting tidbits that I picked up from Merriam-Webster:

Kerfuffle:Kerfuffle earned a place of honor as one of the Top 100 most-looked-up words last month on the Merriam-Webster web site. Why?

At a public event on March 20, President Bush answered a question from an audience member by allowing that his domestic surveillance program "had created quite a kerfuffle in the press"; the Associated Press report of the speech commented on the fact kerfuffle is not "an everyday word.

"Kerfuffle was also featured in a number of news reports describing the reaction last month to Scientologist Isaac Hayes' quitting the Comedy Central hit South Park in response to what he termed its "inappropriate ridicule" of religion.

So what's the story behind the word kerfuffle? Spelled with a "k," it shares a birth year in English with the president (1946), and, at least until recently, it has been considered chiefly British. Kerfuffle is an alteration of the Scottish word carfuffle, which dates to the early 19th century as a noun and means "ruffle; agitation; disorder; flurry." As a verb it is much older, dating to the 17th century and means "to disorder; to disarrange; to ruffle." Carfuffle has Scottish ancestors in car (from a Scottish Gaelic word meaning "wrong, awkward") plus the verb fuffle, meaning "to become disheveled."

It is understandable that there were those who were surprised to hear the word coming from President Bush, as we still hear the word most often in British contexts. Here, for instance, is Hugh Grant's recounting of the first time he met Julia Roberts, as reported in the June 1999 issue of Vanity Fair:"I was a very, very unemployed, pathetic actor at the time," Grant recalls. "I remember being so intimidated by the fact that she was in the room that I got myself in a sort of kerfuffle . . . and missed the chair when I sat down."

That's a kerfuffle.

Merriam-Webster editors are giving the following words serious consideration for entry in a Merriam-Webster dictionary:

* google transitive verb, often capitalized [Google, trademark for a search engine] : to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web
* monkey pox noun : a rare virus disease especially of central and western Africa that is caused by a poxvirus, occurs chiefly in wild rodents and primates, and when transmitted to humans resembles smallpox but is milder
* ponzu noun [Japanese ponsu, ponzu juice squeezed from sour oranges, from Dutch pons, literally punch, from English punch] : tangy sauce made from citrus juice, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce and used especially on seafood

Okay, let's all try to use those four words (kerfuffle, google, monkey pox, and ponzu) in conversations today. The second will be a piece of cake, but I'm in a bit of a kerfuffle over the others.

Robin Lee Hatcher (Diamond Place, Hart’s Crossing Book #3, Revell, April 2006) has been playing with words as a novelist for 25 years. In October 2006 will celebrate the publication of her 50th release, A Carol for Christmas (Zondervan). For more information, visit Robin’s web site at www.robinleehatcher.com .

3 Comments:

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Michael Ehret said...

No need to get in a kerfuffle at all, Robin. Just google monkey pox and you'll find that ponzu has enough Vitamin C to keep you from catching the disease.

Yes, I am making all of that up...lovin' the fiction thing!

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Hi Robin,
I love the word kerfuffle.It makes me smile every time I hear it.I think I first heard it used a few years back by Ryan Stiles on"Whose Line."I LOVED it!So did the audience.:-)Thanks for a great post!Have a blessed day.
Blessings,Sharon

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger Ane Mulligan said...

I love kerfuffle. I knew it a while ago, but I can't remember where I picked it up. Probably from the Reader's Digest. ;)

 

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