Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue – Day Fifty

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was first published at the end of the eighteenth century, and given that the Coronavirus crisis is giving too much time to read books, I thought I’d pick a daily word from it until I got bored…..

Buffle-Headed

Well, that’s day 50 of this virus thing reached, and I haven’t yet got bored of these words from the dictionary, although I’m surprised that I’m still on the letter B. Anyway, this is one of my favourite phrases so far, the dictionary defines it as “confused or stupid”, so I feel that I can get this into conversation a lot. The word ‘buffle’ used to be an alternate word for buffalo (it’s still the French word), but it also means “to be puzzled”. I can’t find any dictionary link this to the word ‘baffle’, but it’s hard to see that it isn’t linked, given that it means the same.

There’s not much use of the word buffle-headed today, with the exception of it being used in reference to a bird. The Bufflehead is a small sea duck, and it takes its name as its head looks like a buffalo. Well, I don’t think its head looks anything like a bloody buffalo, but that’s what the OED says. Sadly, it’s now an archaic term, but any word that means “dull, stupid or blundering” should be brought back into use, as we don’t have enough words for that.