This week’s word came to me courtesy of Merriam-Webster‘s Word of the Day, an email that lands in my inbox and probably says more about my geekiness than I care to admit. But it was the etymology research that made this a contender. Let’s just say its background is quite the kerfuffle.

Being of Scotch-Irish descent, I appreciate a good Scottish word. Fuffle means to throw into disorder. The ker part is far more fun and much murkier than its original spelling cur (so the word was originally curfuffle).

Now, cur refers to a low-value dog, typically vicious or timid, but more accurately means wrong or awkward. Thus, it gets connected to other words such as curmudgeon (muigean being Gaelic for a disagreeable person).

So how did cur become ker, at least in some circumstances? Etymologist believe it’s onomatopoeic (a word whose sound suggests its meaning). Think of the sound of a rock hitting water—kerplunk.

So, yes, kerfuffle is one messed-up word referring to a messed-up situation. In our present world state, it also seems to be a quite useful word.


  1. Amarok & Co on October 3, 2022 at 9:53 am

    I have always loved using this word and now glad to know more of its origin. Thanks Hu-Dad!

  2. Juno's mom on October 3, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    One of Judge Judy’s favorite terms for fights.

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