Kerfuffle

kerfuffle font

It's amazing how you can go through the first sixty years of your life and never once hear or see the word kerfuffle, but then it's everywhere. I heard the most recent instance of kerfuffle on the News Hour last night, when David Brooks, the conservative columnist from the New York Times, said that George Tenet's resignation from the CIA would avoid a kerfuffle later in the campaign.

Kerfuffle. It sounds like something Doris Roberts would say in her role as Marie Barone, the meddlesome momma on Everybody Loves Raymond: "Have some kerfuffle, Raymond, you have to eat!" (I don't watch this show, but it seems to play non-stop on every airplane flight I take, and I can't for the life of me understand why everybody loves it. And I don't think having earphones would change my opinion a whit.)

kerfuffle
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of carfuffle, from Scots car- (probably from Scottish Gaelic cearr wrong, awkward) + fuffle to become disheveled
chiefly British : DISTURBANCE, FUSS
Merriam-Webster online

The Oxford English Dictionary is said to have over 171,000 words in current use and another 47,000 obsolete words (AskOxford). Even college graduates seldom have vocabularies comprising more than a tenth that many, so it's not remarkable to come upon a word one hasn't heard before. What is remarkable is how, once you've heard a new word, you hear it all the time!

I went googling for kerfuffle, which yielded 27,500 results — and that's just in the last three months! (You get the same results for pages dated anytime.) Amazingly, 857 pages have the word kerfuffle in the title.

There's even a kerfuffle font — see the graphic above. You can download the font from any number of font archives on the web, such as GRSites. Why you'd want to is another question.

But I love the word kerfuffle. I think I'll start using it all the time. It would have been the perfect word for Mr Clinton's extramarital affair: the "Monica Lewinsky kerfuffle."

On the other hand, I don't think it would be appropriate to say the "Abu Ghraib kerfuffle." Something tells me that a kerfuffle must inherently be a bit silly, more a "dust-up" or an "ado" rather than egregious wrong-doing.

Kerfuffle would also seem to be a perfect word for those culinary catastrophes known in the midwest as "hot dish." For those who have been spared acquaintance with this phenomenon, the hot dish is a staple of pot lucks, church suppers, and funerals and almost inevitably involves cream of mushroom soup as a main ingredient.

Come to think of it, there are any number of dishes where it's best not to know the ingredients — head cheese, for instance — and kerfuffle would be a terrific generic name for those as well.

Perhaps I can start a trend, but I certainly hope I'm not starting a kerfuffle kerfuffle.