A Yiddish word meaning 'to mumble'. It has entered the English language in a slipshod and random manner, and it's hard to pin down a specific meaning. It is most often used to mean 'to be evasive', but it can also mean 'to putter aimlessly' or 'to waste time'.
I first came across this word in the form 'pfumphering'*. A large number of Google searches show that the word is also spelled 'phumpher' and 'fumpher', to a lesser extent 'pfumpher' and 'pfumpfer', and very rarely, 'pfumfer'. Never 'phumfer'. The most common is 'phumpher', followed closely by 'fumfer'.
Uncross those eyes, we're not done yet. The most common conjugations are 'fumfering', 'fumferer' (one who fumfers), 'fumfered', and of course, 'fumfers'. But the most commonly used spelling changes depending which conjugation you're using. I don't mean to imply that the list below is the 'correct' spelling for each given conjugation, only that it is the most common.
- Don't phumpher.
- He's fumfering again.
- She's a world-class fumferer.
- He phumphered for a while before admitting he didn't know what he was talking about.
- Tem42 fumfers through another lame writeup.
* If you care, it was in Mel Gilden's Harry Newberry and the Raiders of the Red Drink. Yes, it is a children's book. Adults don't appreciate hoopy words the way us kids do.