Piffle and Other Funny Words


Did you ever notice how some some words just sound ridiculous?

Or how some people hate some words, despite the total legitimacy of the word.

I’m not talking about irritating, non-words like irregardless and supposively, but genuine words. For example, I know a lot of people hate the word moist. It’s a real word. It describes a specific state of being–more than damp, but not totally wet or saturated. It’s moist. But a lot of people really, really hate that word.

Someone recently posted on Facebook that they hate the word chuckled and they refuse to use it in their writing unless there’s absolutely no other way to describe the way a character laughed.

My husband says the word ufda. It’s not even a word, really, it’s just a collection of sounds, and it’s one of the words that I think sounds totally ridiculous. He uses it as an expression of frustration or awe, like someone might say ugh or oy vey. I don’t like it, but I’ve caught myself using it a couple times, because it seems to fit the moment.

Sometimes my husband says, “Oh, piffle.” Technically, the word (yeah, unfortunately it’s a real word) means, “nonsense, as trivial or senseless talk”, but he uses it like “oh, darn,” but more child-friendly.

When he says it, I tell him, “Don’t say that. You sound like an seventy-year-old woman.” Which is not what I want my studly, thirty-something husband to sound like.

However, if I were writing a character who was a seventy-year-old woman, piffle might be exactly the sort of thing I’d have her say.

And so, these words, the ones we hate, can become great tools for more colorful writing if we let them. Can’t you just picture the little old lady, waving her cane at a disrespectful teenager and saying, “Oh, piffle!”?

What about you? What words do you love? Which ones do you hate? How might you use those words to create a really powerful word picture?

About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

6 comments on “Piffle and Other Funny Words

  1. I must admit I did not know anyone had a quarrel with the word “moist.” In describing its content of liquid, I certainly don’t want my chocolate cake to be “dry.” But I don’t want it to be “damp” or “wet” or “drenched.” Only “moist” is the right word for that occasion–unless you are an oddball like my father, who puts a slice of cake in a bowl and fills the bowl with milk, literally drenching it.

    As for “chuckle,” I think some writers find it overused. That isn’t an objection to the word in and of itself. At least, it doesn’t seem to me it would be.

    As for the special words your hubby says, it sounds to me like writing his dialogue in a story would be fun, while at the same time strike people as unrealistic. (Who talks like that? 🙂

  2. Or folks who’ve worked very hard to clean up their less-than-genteel language. 😉

  3. Phlegm. Especially when I see it written. It has a uvula.

  4. I had asked my daughter what movie character used the word “Piffle?” She had no clue, but referred me to this article. You mentioned your husband saying “ufda.” I am half Norwegian and “Uff Da” is indeed a real expression.

    As an almost 77 year-old woman, I enjoy explaining three Norwegian expressions: Uff Da; Fie Da; and Ish Da!

    You drive home from the grocery store with a carload of groceries. It’s 103° outside and you have to carry everything up three flights of stairs! You finish and collapse into your favorite chair. “UFF DA!”

    The next morning you head downstairs to your car, as you have errands to run! You open the door and realize there was a bag of meat that was on the floor of the back seat that is emitting an awful smell! “FIE DA!!”

    You take it back up the three flights of stairs to deal with it! You get to the kitchen sink, open the bag and have to deal with the slimy mess!!! “ISH DA!”

    Yep, this nearly 77 year old woman uses these phrases on a regular basis!

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