Faffing about

I am so nearly there with getting my new novel ready for publication, checking it over and over, dithering over chapters, worrying about mistakes I can’t see… but today I have also spent a lot of time just faffing about… And as I reflected on my faffing while I was eating dinner, I also wondered where the word came from. I don’t remember using it years ago; before I investigated it I thought it was something which had come into use in the last twenty or so years… In one piece of information I found, faff and faffing is quoted as becoming almost obsolete, in another report it has come into wider use since the 1980’s.

Well, no… To faff, meaning to dither, or to waste time in an undecided sort of way, to be ineffectually or indecisive has been used in this way for two hundred or so years. A similar word from which it derives is even older; faffle is at least five hundred years old; faffle meant to stammer or stutter, but it could also mean or maybe originally meant to flap about in the wind, which I guess is what anyone does when they faff, dither around as if being blown about! It could also mean in those days,  to blow on something, for example blowing the dust off something. There is also a word, maffle… meaning something similar, but which came first, who knows, but faff from faffle has lasted longer than maffle!

So faff as a verb means to waste time in a harmless sort of a way, but if something is a faff (noun) it means it is a waste of time in an annoying way… so some of the administrative tasks I had to do as a teacher were a real faff, an absolutely pointless and annoying waste of my time!

Despite my faffing I am just about rerady to launch my new novel, Beyond Hope, the fourth in the Thomas Radwinter stories. If you haven’t read about Thomas, or haven’t read my other novels, you will find them here:





  1. Rosie Scribblah

    It’s a word I’ve heard all my life here in South Wales so just assumed it was used everywhere. I remember a TV advert a while back, maybe in the 1990’s with a Welsh character advertising Pot Noodles as ‘not faffy food’.


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