Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Aug 25 00:25:55 UTC 2009

Michael Quinion wrote:
> A subscriber posed a question for the Q and A section of my World Wide
> Words newsletter which began, "Recently I received an invitation to attend
> a cigar herf." He had never come across the word. Neither had I, so his
> question both introduced me to a new word and left me floundering. It's
> easy to discover its meaning. One Web site defines it: "A lively gathering
> of cigar-smoking comrades who meet in a restaurant, club, cigar store or
> home to share their appreciation of fine cigars." "Herf" seems well
> established, but where the devil does it come from? Any ideas, anyone?

Just my initial impression without real substantiation: etymologically I
suppose "herf" = "huff" (here meaning "draw [smoke]" or so). See "huff"
in HDAS.

I don't know why the spelling, maybe just frivolous, but in non-rhotic
speech "herf" may resemble "huff".

So I guess to herf [on] a cigar is to puff [on] one, more or less.

I see "herf" back to late 1996 on Usenet (alt.smokers.cigars), and in
the early instances it seems to have been a verb with [about] this
meaning. I suppose the noun is probably secondary: an event where one
dances is a "dance", an event where one runs is a "run", an event where
one herfs is a "herf".

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list