“Chuffed”

John Polk (@ClichesGoneWild) noted on Twitter yesterday, “‘Chuffed’ means pleased… or displeased. Not helpful when a word is its own antonym.”

I was only familiar with the “pleased” meaning but the OED confirms that “displeased” is a legitimate thing, as in this from David Storey’s 1960 “This Sporting Life”: “I felt pretty chuffed with myself.”

I was inevitably prompted me to check chuffed (with either meaning) for NOOB-ness. A quick search of the New York Times archives suggests it deserves On the Radar status, but only in the positive sense (I couldn’t find a single example of the other one).

Most recently, Deb Amlen wrote last month in  Times crossword blog, Wordplay: “I was also pretty chuffed at the beginning because I was able to fill in so many of the long answers.” I’m not 100% sure that Amlen is American, but her online bio confirms residence (and suggests, to me, birth): “She lives in New Jersey with her family and her Extremely Spunky Border Terrier™, Jade.”

The word also appears in a Times article earlier this year about a “adventure design camp” in Texas: “For this camp, Mr. Dyer had made a massive, lusty grill from rusted steel pipe, after a design sketched by the chef Rene Ortiz. It was the first thing he had made besides fence work, and he was pretty chuffed about it.”

For the next Times use (by a non-Commonwealth speaker), you have to go back to a 201o post in the Dealbook blog: “And it seems that Ms. [Cara] Goldenberg does indeed feel chuffed about the meeting [with Warren Buffett].”

What will allow chuffed to rise above the radar? Well, my attention will be caught if I see it used in a U.S. source preceded by one of the customary British modifiers, well or dead. I’m not holding my breath.

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29 responses to ““Chuffed”

  1. John in the UK

    I have never heard chuffed used in the UK to mean anything other than ‘very pleased’. I would like to know the context of the OED Sporting Life quote because ‘to feel pretty chuffed with yourself’ is a standard – and entirely positive- phrase.

    And with reference to Deb Amlen’s nationality, I can assure you that no English person would describe their dog as being ‘extremely spunky’. That means something quite different over here…

  2. I don’t know the context but I trust the OED on this, if only because other citation (from 1964 Celia Dale novel) is clear: “Don’t let on they’re after you, see, or she’ll be dead chuffed, see? She don’ like the law.”

  3. The expression ‘chuffed off’ means ‘angry ‘ or ‘pissed off’ This is used in Yorkshire. I used to hear it often when I lived there
    ‘Chuff off!’ or ‘Get away with you’ or even aa a soft version of F*** off is also used.
    Other uses – ‘chuffed to bits ‘ as in thrilled to bits’
    Lets hope this starts the ball rolling!

  4. As children in Liverpool in the 60s we used to speak of being “chuffed to little mint balls”, mint balls being a popular sweet (candy).

    http://www.uncle-joes.com/sweet-shop/uncle-joes-mint-balls

  5. Chuffed = pleased in MY dictionary. As for Chuff Off and Yorkshire, well they ARE different up there! Dare I say – better? I can say that, I lived there and loved it. Urban dictionary gives a variety of other uses, as in reference to a smelly fart. It’s a great onomatopoeic word (I had to check the spelling) so liable to be applied and re-applied, and minted anew.

  6. Hearing “chuffed” at first it sounded to me as something unpleasant, something one would not be happy about. In context, however, I’ve always heard it used as a pleasant experience. I’m glad to read here finally that it can mean less than happy as well. Like Humpty Dumpty, who is the master here, you or the word? It means whatever I want it to mean!

  7. Isn’t “chuffing” the sound young bear cubs make around their mother? If so, it makes perfect sense the same word would imply “happiness” when used by humans…unless of course your mother was an unBEARable woman! hahahahahahahahaha!

    • And the WINNER IS SmallHouseBigGarden!
      I wish I could vote many many times hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. I’m actually chuffed to nuts hearing it has broken through on the NOOB radar!

  9. I wasn’t aware of the Yorkshire variant but I have heard chuff used as a euphemism for the female genitalia. Which probably only serves to confuse things further…

  10. I’ve never heard chuffed as anything other than pleased (with oneself). The opposite is, of course, dischuffed.

    Chuff as genitalia: hence the phrase “as tight as a gnat’s chuff”, meaning someone who is mean. Mean in the sense of stingy. Stingy in the sense of miserly, and pronounced with a soft g.

  11. As a noun, see Henry 4, Part 1. I’m not sure if it’s one of Shakespeare’s many coinages, but it is an excellent insult for the greedily corpulent.

  12. “Chuff” is nother great addition to the contronym list: http://shar.es/Aq464 http://shar.es/Aq4E5

  13. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Harold Pinter yet? HIs novel “The Homecoming” put the phrase ‘chuffed to the bollocks’ into the open in the sense of being happy as a clam. Also, American journalist Robert Paul Jordan (once of the National Geographic magazine) used ‘chuff’ or ‘chuffed’ in 1964 to mean ‘pleased.’

  14. Douglas Colyer

    In the British Army in the 1950′s we used ‘chuffed to little NAAFI breaks’ and that meant we were really pleased. ‘Chocker’ was used as feeling really cheesed off, down in the dumps or downright miserable.

  15. I only know “chuffed” as meaning very pleased, but then the phrase “chuffing Nora” popped into my head. A quick google search showed that it was used in The Full Monty, which makes sense as I hear it in a Yorkshire accent in my head. I would say it’s one of those expletives that is fairly mild but sounds smutty at the same time.

  16. I’m used to hearing ‘chuffed’ (positive) and ‘dis-chuffed’ (negative). I’ve also heard ‘chuffing’ as a bowdlerisation of ‘f***ing’ (or other such word) though I suspect it probably got there from the Northern usage stated above.

    As the posts above show there are clearly local pockets of different meaning, to the discomfiture of anyone trying to pigeonhole general BrE usage!

  17. I’d always understood ‘unchuffed’ was the opposite of chuffed.
    also:
    A chough is a kind of bird – and chough is pronounced ‘chuff’
    Also ‘chuff’ is the noise steam engines make – so trains would have ‘chuffed’ into stations.

    I’m really glad I’m not learning English as a second language.

  18. Down at the station, early in the morning,
    See the little chuffer-trains all in a row,
    Watch the station master blow his little whistle,
    Chuff-chuff, whoo-whoo off we go!

    We used to sing this little ditty as kids in the 1950′s-but it doubtless is much older than that. Needless to say, it disappeared with the advent of diesel and electric.

  19. ”He’s up my chuff” is an expression used to describe the car sitting one inch from your rear bumper (it is usually a BMW).

    • You mean an SUV….ANY brand, tho BMW’s tend to be more aggressive than others. Don’t forget, whomever is at the wheel is on the phone so they really do NOT know what they are doing. Yes, there are laws but BMW’s are Beyond Man’s Weach….sorry, my brain is in stall.

  20. The references to genitalia are incorrect. Any mention of “chuff’ in relation to that end of the body is definitely a synonym for “arse”, i.e. “as cold as a penguin’s chuff”.

  21. Somebody trademarked “Extremely Spunky Border Terrier”? The world truly turned upside down.

  22. The more times that I have read the OED citation (“pretty chuffed with myself”), the more I am convinced that the compilers made a mistake: surely the sense can only be chuffed as pleased?

    Damn! I’m going to have to read it again, after about 40 yrs…

    • I don’t get this…chuffed is pleased and if the onomatapeic reference is accepted, why not a fart? I found this quoted on another word site…and I agree with the summation: – - –
      [quote] I think the information posted in the question pretty much answers the question. Originating some time between 1825–35, the meaning of “chuffed” was negative. Not long after that time, around 1855–60, the meaning changed to a positive. Unless you were around over 158 years ago, you would probably not have a recollection of the first meaning. [end quote]

  23. This is a reply to Ben’s comment regarding “dead chuffed”. The site will not allow me a direct response to his comment.

    I suspect Ben is an American. Here in Canada, the term “dead chuffed”, especially for those who have ever watched Coronation Street, means the same as “right chuffed” or “well chuffed”. It was a favourite of Hilda Ogden’s. It most definitely to be very pleased with oneself.

  24. Easy to explain. House of Cards US is causing an exploration of the old UK version; one I’m most chuffed about. And apparently, I’m not alone. Would expect the Bruichladdich consumption to pick up here as fast as the term “put a bit of stick about” goes mainstream.

  25. Always interested in the uses of this word. I’m American, and my (married) last name is, you guessed it, Chuff! Kind of embarrassing to see all the negative associations with the word, but at least here in the US, the word or any of its derivatives are not in common usage at all.

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