Return to foofaraw (idea)

Also spelled fofarraw, fofarrow, frufraw, foofooraw.


“All in all, it was the goldarndest, Barnum-and-Baileyest, rib-stickinest, rough-and-tumblest infernal foofaraw of a media circus anybody had seen since grandpaw chased the possum down the road and lost his store teeth, and I was heartily sorry to have been a part of it.”
--Steel Beach by John Varley.

An Americanism, originally meaning something tawdry or gaudy, something with an excessive amount of ornamentation. Eventually it also came to mean a great fuss over a trifling matter; a hullaballoo; making a mountain out of a molehill.

This word first appeared in writing in 1848, when the English adventurer and travel writer George Frederick Augustus Ruxton published an account of his travels among the traders and trappers of the American Rocky Mountains in an article for Blackwood’s Magazine; he reported that those on the frontier used this word to refer to baubles, bangles and beads.

Most likely, these folks got it from the Spanish fanfarrón, meaning 'a braggart'. This in turn probably came from the Arabic farfar, meaning 'talkative', abducted into the Spanish language during the period that Spain was occupied by the Moors.

Use of foofaraw is currently on the decline, and while most well-read Americans will recognize it, at least well enough to recognize its meaning in context, it is almost never used in either conversation or writing. I have found one Canadian who reports it being used where she lives, but it is dying off in America, and has apparently never really made it to the UK.

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