What would this blog do without Nancy Friedman? I shudder to think. Hard on the heels of spotting an Oregon loo, she reports that on last Thursday’s “Parks and Recreation,” Chris (Rob Lowe) said to Ben (Adam
Cooper Scott): “The Ben Wyatt I know, I don’t think he’d be happy just sitting here faffing around.” (I’m surprised I didn’t hear about this first from Elizabeth Yagoda, “Parks and Rec” fan that she is.)
The Britishism in there is derived from faff, a verb meaning dither or fuss, and is usually followed by about. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first citation, from an 1874 volume called Yorkshire Oddities, suggests that it originated as a regionalism: “T’ clock~maker‥fizzled an’ faff’d aboot her, but nivver did her a farthing’s worth o’ good.”
Up till now, U.S. use has been spotty (and I don’t mean spotty in the English sense). It is a favorite of New York Times sports blogger Jeff Z. Klein, who, covering the 2008 women’s soccer matches at the 2008 Olympics, wrote:
Much faffing about as these final minutes tick down. New Zealand have a throw in deep in the Amerk zone, but the one Fern is surrounded by four Americans and winds up on her back as they run away with the ball.
Klein’s use of the plural verb have with the collective New Zealand indicates he has absorbed a bit too much English football coverage, and suggests that faff is still more or less a one-off.