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Flowers and Frolics

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 29, 2008 at 14:03

In Reply to: Flowers and Frolics posted by Fox on October 29, 2008 at 06:57:

: When I pointed out the rhyming slang "Flowers and Frolics" to my partner - we're Australian, so the rhyme sounded exactly right to us - he suggested that it might also be the origin of the slang "faff", as in "faffing about" (wasting your time). The meaning certainly fits. Does anyone know anything about this, or else where faffing about truly comes from?

The Oxford English Dictionary regards "faff" as a shortened for of "faffle," which it thinks is of "echoic origin; cf. maffle." It cites an example of faffle from the 16th century: "1570 LEVINS Manip. 9 To Faffle, balbutire. Ibid. 127 Faffil." Balbutire means to stammer or stutter.

a faff, according to the OED, is a puff of wind, and to faff is to blow in sudden gusts. The OED gives examples of faff used as an intransitive verb, meaning to fuss, to dither (as in "faff bout," and as a noun, meaning "fuss, 'flap'," as in "Dithering about in a perpetual faff" (from an example cited by the OED).

The "flowers and frolic" phrase may mean essentially the same as faff, but their origins seem unrelated.