Antedating of "boffin"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 12 12:35:18 UTC 2014

The Register, a British tabloid tech website, is fond of using the word
"boffin" for scientists, and recently received a complaint from a boffin
after neglecting to call him a boffin.

They're now after a definition.

Anyway, the OED has this sense of boffin from 1945 but I found a 1943.

They note: "The term seems to have been first applied by members of the
Royal Air Force to scientists working on radar."

Their first two quotations (1945, 1948) mention Malvern and Farnborough,
both RAF locations. Their third (1948) mentions the RAF. This 1943 is also
an RAF use.

Journal of the Institute of Petroleum, Volume 28, March 1942, page 58,
recording the speeches of a luncheon: "A Luncheon of the Parliamentary and
Scientific Committee was held at the Savoy Hotel, London, on Tuesday, 3rd
February, 1942", Sir Henry Tizard's speech beginning:

Looking at things as a whole, no one can deny that the influence of science
is now greater than it has ever been, and that the present Government and
Parliament attach a value to the help and guidance of scientists that no
previous Parliaments have ever done. Lord Hankey has already told you
something of the work of the Scientific Committees over which he presides.
There are many more such Committees that I could mention. There is hardly a
phase of the national life now with which scientists are not associated. In
fact, a fighting friend of mine said that he could hardly walk in any
direction in this war without tumbling over a scientist who had got in the
way.  In the Royal Air Force, where the concentration of scientists is
perhaps greatest, they have a pet  name for them. They call them "
Boffins." Why, I do not know. I said to a young friend 6f mine in the Air
Force, " Why do you call scientists ' Boffins ' ?" He said, " I don't know.
What else would you call them ? "

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