Words we love: kerfuffle
The delightful term meaning commotion, fuss, or minor disturbance has always been a favourite of mine.
Throughout the years, "kerfuffle" has been spelled in various ways, from "curfuffle" and "carfuffle" to "cafuffle," "cafoufle," and even "gefuffle." It stands as a classic example of a word spoken and rarely written.
One of its earliest appearances can be traced back to the "Dictionary of Forces' Slang," a chronicle of military jargon during World War II. Here, "kerfuffle" is defined as "a little local difficulty or disagreement." Given the gravity of the circumstances during that time, it makes sense that they needed a word to distinguish those less serious situations.
Seemingly even in the 00’s, "kerfuffle" still hadn't quite made its way across the pond to the masses. During an appearance in Ohio, President Bush used the term, sparking a bit of a kerfuffle in itself as aides had to pause mid-story to explain this novel word to America. Although, coming from the man who coined "misunderestimated," it's not surprising that aides felt the need to clarify that this wasn't just another linguistic faux pas or busherism.
Yet, even for those unfamiliar with the word, as soon as it rolls off the tongue, it wins people over. Take basketball stars Steph Curry and Kevin Durant who embraced the term during an interview about an on-court altercation:
Interviewer: What happened with that Gobert kerfuffle at the end?
Curry: That is a word right there.
Durant: Wow. Congrats on that word bro.
Curry: That is strong.
For anyone not in the know, I’d point to the Oscars and envelope-gate as the epitome of a kerfuffle. The chaos unfolded when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and mistakenly declared La La Land as the Best Picture winner. The La La Land team had already begun their thank-you speeches when the Oscar authorities rushed in, proclaiming, 'hold your champagne, folks. There's been a mistake!' The real victor was in fact Moonlight.
This incident is a quintessential kerfuffle—an assortment of blunders, yet importantly, utterly inconsequential to most people.
There are of course other words out there to define this type of misunderstanding, some great ones in fact. You’ve got “hullabaloo”, “ruckus”, “fiasco” however for me "kerfuffle" takes the top spot—simple, amusing, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.