The International Variations Of Faff: What Do You Call It?

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Last week’s Weekly Word newsletter was about ‘faff’. Here in the UK, we are very familiar with faff – but what is it called elsewhere in the world? Take a read, see if you recognise its symptoms, and offer up your versions of it.

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Faff Optimisation

Is there such a thing as a group ride that doesn’t start with faff? Apparently outside the British-English speaking world, there might be. My in-depth research* suggests that outside of British English ‘Faff’ is not common parlance. Which led me to consider, what is faff? How can it be defined or distinguished from other types of pre-ride activity?

It is not pottering. Pottering conveys unstructured, perhaps leisurely, achievement or completion of activities. You can potter around doing housework with the radio on, or potter in the garden, plucking a weed here, pruning a branch there. Pottering conveys a leisurely pace of no particular agenda, just a general air of doing-ness.

Faff is not the same as mucking around (or its more crass f-equivalent). Mucking around is unproductive, perhaps deliberately so. Faff is a precursor to a goal, but inadvertent.

Neither is faffing the same as getting ready You can get ready for an expedition – tick off lists, make sure items are packed. It’s methodical. Faffing is not methodical.

Faffing is surely the antithesis of all the above: it is not leisurely, it is under pressure; it is inefficient. It is not deliberately unproductive or obstructive, however, it generally manages to be both. It is inadvertent yet inevitable.

The Ikea bag: a creator or container of faff?

Faff is not confined to group rides. There can be faff before a solo ride, but faff multiplies exponentially in the face of additional participants. Would life be improved without faff? Perhaps – although to eliminate it entirely might tip us into the realm of organisation, robots, machines, race-tuned athletes. Would we want that? Is there something in faff that is beneficial? Is faff the product of a certain level of relaxation or laissez-faire? A trade-off worth making in the name of leisure. Or is it just eating into our leisure time? I suspect there is an optimum level for faff, perhaps we could plot a graph for illustrating the perfect faff zone of enjoyment and relaxation – tip past that point and we enter into frustration, delay and loss of fun.

However, those without language for faff, do they faff? Do they call it something else, or just miss faff completely, going straight to ride, emerging perfectly formed from their walk-in wardrobes or highly organised garages, ready to roll. Do we in the UK faff because we have a word for it? Or do we have a word for it because somehow it’s part of our cultural existence? I find it hard to believe that faff is a cultural island and doesn’t exist elsewhere. So if you are reading this outside of the British-English speaking world and you recognise the attributes of faff but not the word, what do you call it? Let me know.

Now I’m off to ride. I will attempt to achieve the optimum level of faff minimisation and fun maximisation.

*talking to my American husband

From our readers…

It’s somewhat reassuring to hear that even the Germans – known for their efficiency – aren’t immune to faff.

“Herumwurschteln”

We’ve got herumwurschteln in German. It’s also not too specific, the direct translation would be ‘sausaging around’ with a tint of Bavarian accent :-/

It does imply the use of inadequate means and contains, at least to my ears, a humoristic connotation.

It definitely does not make for a quick resolution of the task at hand, and the product will be clumsy.

Heiner

And how about another English option – possibly a regional variant?

“Pisswilly”

The word faff is obsolete and should be replaced by pisswilly, as in my wife’s cry of ‘Don’t pisswilly around!’ shouted at Bolton Wanderers players as they fail to do anything useful on the pitch. 

David

Add your faff variants to the comments section, and be sure to sign up to get your own copy of the newsletter. It’s totally free!

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Home Forums The International Variations Of Faff: What Do You Call It?

Viewing 34 posts - 1 through 34 (of 34 total)
  • The International Variations Of Faff: What Do You Call It?
  • 5
    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    Scottish – fannying around.

    3
    chaos
    Full Member

    Spelling it ‘pfaff’ somehow seems a better way.  The entirely redundant and silent ‘p’ is in keeping with the general nature of (p)faffing.

    1
    nickc
    Full Member

    I met a guy from the South East of the US who called it the “Dance Party”

    2
    thelawman
    Free Member

    fannying around

    Fannying aboot, surely…

    BillOddie
    Full Member
    brakestoomuch
    Full Member

    Fanny about down here in the south east(ish), along with ponce around. But ponce can also mean scrounge, among other things :(

    timba
    Free Member

    Scholtzing

    7
    singlespeedstu
    Full Member

    Anyone who fannys too much on our group rides is referred to as The President Of Faffganistan.

    I think it was @matt_outandabout that coined that phrase.

    1

    Not sure some of the military terms are socially acceptable, absolutely apt, but rather spicy.

    The President Of Faffganistan.

    That is genius.

    1
    franksinatra
    Full Member

    I was riding at the Golfie a while ago, pulled up in my car next to a guy who was faffing with his bike. Had shock pump out, track pump, kit everywhere. I lifted my bike off the roof, put helmet on and cycled away. About 25 mins later I got a call from school to pick up my poorly daughter. Headed back to the car, same person still faffing around getting ready to ride.

    Crazy stuff, time is precious, don’t faff.

    1
    beanum
    Full Member

    The French don’t really have an equivalent word as far as I know. The verb “glander” is close but that’s more loafing about than pure faffage.
    The closest in sound is “farfouiller” but that means to have a rummage, i.e. in a jumble sale.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    The President Of Faffganistan.

    One of my sons friends was presented with the t-shirt….

    alpin
    Free Member

    Titivating.

    rumficken…. Hör auf da rumzuficken.

    2
    Kramer
    Free Member

    Anyone who fannys too much on our group rides is referred to as The President Of Faffganistan.

    On ours, we zip tie the “Faffinch” to their helmet.

    tthew
    Full Member

    Titivating

    Nah, that’s having a cosmetic tidy up. Definitely not faff.

    mmannerr
    Full Member

    In Finnish climbing terms the inevitable packing – unpacking – gear selection – packing – unpacking -cycle related to any climbing trips is called välppäys.

    Swedish friends refer persons who are overly pedant about their gear as prylbög but that is not really same as faffing before start.

    thelostboy
    Free Member

    I asked about this in a Spanish bike hire place recently while I was repeatedly going to and from my bag in the locker. We found the closest equivalent phrase they had was “he does not have memory must have legs”, which made me chuckle.

    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    I was riding at the Golfie a while ago, pulled up in my car next to a guy who was faffing with his bike. Had shock pump out, track pump, kit everywhere. I lifted my bike off the roof, put helmet on and cycled away. About 25 mins later I got a call from school to pick up my poorly daughter. Headed back to the car, same person still faffing around getting ready to ride.

    Oh there’s at least one person like that in every MTB group. It’s some sort of unwritten rule. Except the one part they need they invariably have to borrow from someone else.

    3
    hooli
    Free Member

    I was chatting to a colleague recently about faffing and for the others it is painful waiting around, especially in winter. He disagreed with me as there were no faffers in his group…

    A week or 2 later I joined his group for a ride after work and it turns out he is his groups faffer. I mentioned it when we stopped and his group all agreed with me, he went silent while it dawned on him that it was true.

    It just goes to show that every group has a faffer, if you don’t think your group has one then it is you!

    chickenman
    Full Member

    Burach in Scots Gaelic

    1
    crazy-legs
    Full Member

    It just goes to show that every group has a faffer, if you don’t think your group has one then it is you!

    Group rides.
    Group stops for (eg) a puncture repair. Much chatting away amongst the folk not helping with the puncture, all nice and friendly. Puncture fixed, ready to go…?

    Oh no, can I just…
    – go to the loo
    – get an energy bar
    – check my gears/brakes/tyres
    – adjust my….
    – put my waterproof on

    Seriously, WTF have you been doing for the last 10-15 minutes. Oh that’s right, chatting shit. 🙄

    1
    downshep
    Full Member

    My OCD makes me a champion faffer.

    “Stoap pissarsing aboot an’ git oan wi’ it” has been directed at me more than once.

    Drac
    Full Member

    A complete **** on.

    mogrim
    Full Member

    In Spanish the closest is probably “marear la perdiz”, lit.: “make the partridge dizzy”.

     

     

    7
    survivor
    Full Member

    One person starts faffing then others start joining in with their own faff…

    This is a faffalanche….

    1
    nedrapier
    Full Member

    The verb “glander” is close but that’s more loafing about than pure faffage.

    same for “lollygagging” – not heard it much out of Canada – and even then I think only from one person. Good word, though!

    theotherjonv
    Full Member

    There must be a connected term. I refuse to call it faffing about, but it leads to the same exasperation. I think it’s unique to leaving the house to go out, but may have other versions.

    Some time earlier – “what time are we leaving”

    agreement – “at half past”

    at 28 past, family appears from various bedrooms and locations and conspicuously puts coats on and sit in front room.

    Meanwhile – dog needs to be sent out for a wee before locking the back door, turning the TV off, making sure that the water bowl is full, etc. other possible activities before leaving. Chances of anyone else lifting a finger to do any of this? Zero. Just sitting there on phones and candy crush and whatever.

    And then I get falsely accused of faffing (sometimes Michelle Faffer in our terminology)

    alpin
    Free Member

    Headed back to the car, same person still faffing around getting ready to ride.

    Crazy stuff, time is precious, don’t faf

    Maybe the geezer doesn’t have the space at home?

    Have a good mate that always turns up with a job to do before he can ride. He got the train down from Berlin to Munich to join us for a long weekend riding in South Tirol… a trip we had planned a couple of months in advance.

    Brake pads need changing…. Then bleeding.

    Just can’t my head around it. He only works part time as he’s still a student (at 40!) so it’s not like he’s strapped for time.

    2
    BiscuitPowered
    Free Member

    ‘Fart-arsing around’ was common where I grew up.

    boco
    Full Member

    We have a massive faffer with our group, can’t wait to call him President on the next ride!!! 🤣

    Kahurangi
    Full Member

    What’s the word Danny MacAskill was using in his recent video with Steve Pete? Sprachelling?

    deus
    Full Member

    when it goes beyond faffing it tends to be termed “f@$king about”

    Cougar
    Full Member

    same for “lollygagging” – not heard it much out of Canada – and even then I think only from one person. Good word, though!

    I asked elsewhere and that was the second word an American friend came back with, after “dilly-dallying.”

    1
    wimpsworth
    Full Member

    I can’t remember where this first originated (probably too much time on our hands during a middle watch) but here is “The Faff Equation”

     

    Total time spent faffing in minutes (t) equals the amount of rainfall that day in mm (r), plus the number of people present (n) multiplied by the average temperature on the day (y) divided by 2, plus the average experience of the riders present (e) divided by 2.

     

    t=r+(n*y)/2 + e/2

     

    Example:

     

    10 people out on a dry 16 degree day with an average of 10 years experience each t=0+(10*16)/2 + 5= 85 minutes of faffing.

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