1. souse, n.5: 3. A drunkard. slang (chiefly U.S.). (OED)
  2. white souse, n.1: A blog for literature, politics, science, and the occasional cocktail.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Etymology Friday: Boffo

I was reading a column by E. J. Dionne, and he used the raz-mataz adjective "boffo" -- prompting me to wonder, where in the hell does that word come from? I don't think I've ever heard it used viva voce, and I don't recall seeing it anywhere accept entertainment rags and the headlines of the New York Sun.

Well, it turns out, according to the OED, that it's a homegrown neologism that emerged from the pages of Variety in the 40's. Go Team America. There's some speculation that it comes from the dialect of Yorkshire natives, in which, it is recorded from the turn of the last century, "boff" stood for "an alarm, a sudden shock" (a definition that perhaps continued, per Gilbert and Sullivan, "from a cheap and chippy chopper on a big black block").

Regardless, this makes "Boffo" a true Americanism, taking its place in the pantheon alongside "Cocktail" and "Google" as one of our great contributions to the language of Shakespeare and Michael Palin.

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