Printable Version
Pronunciation: kêr--fêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A scuffle, a tussle. 2. A fuss, a brouhaha , a commotion that produces a ruffling of feathers.

Notes: This lexical odd-ball comes from the land that specializes in odd-ball words, Scotland. Since it is spoken more than written, no one really knows how it is spelled: carfuffle, curfuffle, or several other alternatives proffered over the years—with and without the R. The Australians have added kerfoofle, kafuffle, and kafoofle. Kerfuffle is the best way to spell this word today. Trust me.

In Play: If you need to bring a true brouhaha under control, the question, "What is all the kerfuffle about?" is much more likely to gain the desired results than, "What is all the fuss about?" Those involved will have to belay the kerfuffle to look this word up in the dictionary. It is a lovely word for all its quirks: "I hear she raised a big kerfuffle over the alimony," soothes the ear where all the alternatives grate.

Word History: The older spelling of this word, carfuffle, suggests the first syllable may have originated in Gaelic car "twist, bend, turn about," the same meaning as the Scottish verb fuffle that follows it. The spelling kerfuffle, on the other hand, suggests that the prefix may be ker-, found in such interjections as kerplop and kersplash. We aren't sure of either source. Nor is there any reliable clue as to where fuffle originated. It has been intimated to be a blend of fuss and shuffle. Since blends are rare, however, we must concede at this point that no one really knows—or they're keeping it to themselves.

Dr. Goodword,

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