[Ads-l] It=?UTF-8?Q?=E2=80=99s_a_bird=3B_It=E2=80=99s_a_plane=3B_It=E2=80=99s_?=a boffin

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 19 13:28:43 UTC 2022

"Boffin" has the vowel of neither "puffin" nor "Baffin." Any connection
with scientific eggheads would have been wholly fanciful, and therefore
probably unprovable.


On Sat, Mar 19, 2022 at 9:11 AM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote:

> Among my errors: missing Hugo’s post; it’sàits typo.
> I had dismissed the relevance of the use of Boffin by Dickens (in Our
> Mutual Friend) and P.G. Wodehouse (Joe Boffin, in at least two works), but
> having a ready-made name might have played a role.
> Eric Partridge also speculated about baffle, probably mistakenly.
> The 1945 date for “Random Soundings” is confirmed by WorldCat and British
> Library, so apparently correcting the OED listing it as 1942.
> I have ordered a copy of Charles Graves’ 1941 book.
> So far, I think OED’s two senses could be merged: experts, hence older
> than new conscripts. And joint RAF and Navy usage in coast defense contexts.
> Watson-Watt (a Scot) dismissed the “back room” characterization,
> preferring, more or less, a bridging function between science and the
> military. When he dismissed a “Colonel Boffin” (a fictional name he later
> invented?) he apparently was dismissing any similarity with the type in
> Colonel Blimp cartoons.
> Stephen Goranson
> https://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of
> ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2022 7:08 AM
> Subject: Re: It’s a bird; It’s a plane; It’s a boffin
> Mark Mandel wrote:
> > Make that a "baffining" question.
> A 1950 book of slang does claim that "boffin" is partially derived
> from "baffle".
> Year: 1950 Copyright
> Title: Sea Slang of the Twentieth Century: Royal Navy, Merchant Navy,
> Yachtsmen, Fishermen, Bargemen, Canalmen, Miscellaneous
> Author: Wilfred Granville
> Quote Page 40
> Publisher: The Philosophical Library, New York
> Database: Internet Archive
> [Begin excerpt]
> boffins. In the Navy, officers over the age of thirty-five. (In the
> R.A.F., ‘backroom boys’ or scientists.) The name is partly echoic; cf.
> the dialectal boffle for baffle.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
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