• boffo •
bah-fo • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective or Noun
Meaning: 1. (Adjective) Resoundingly successful, sensational (play, movie) or extremely positive (a review of a such a production). 2. (Noun) An uproariously funny line, a hilarious joke.
Notes: The noun sense seems to be an extension of boff "an uproariously funny joke", since the entertainment industry has another, longer extension, boffola with the same meaning. These empty extensions are the only derivational family for today's Good Word.
In Play: Since this word was first spotted in Variety, the show-business daily, let's begin with an example from that economic sector: "Carmen Sweet's first movie about a guy who forms a chocolate-covered potato chip factory was boffo at the box office." However, the word now has escaped the entertainment business and is currently at large in the general vocabulary: "The company is expecting boffo sales figures for its new product, a solar-powered flashlight that eliminates the need for batteries."
Word History: Today's Good Word may be two words: the adjective and the noun may have been conflated. The adjective might have originated in boff, which could be associated with Box OFFice (smash hit)", since its first appearance was in Variety (1943). Another equally compelling analysis relates the word to an earlier (1921) boff "a blow, a hit", since hit in show business can also mean "a resounding success". This boff would be a variant of biff and baff "a blow, a whack". The origins of these words remain behind a veil of mystery. (Today's Good One is another boffo word suggestion from Albert Skiles.)
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