Re: DUFFER - in "Sands"

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Posted by John Nichols on April 13, 2005 at 20:05:09 from user Mcneacail.

In Reply to: Re: DUFFER - in posted by Peter H on April 13, 2005 at 18:54:20:

OED - Duffer predates by about 40 years the invasion of Australia.
But it is a strong Aussie term, but it is also an English fishing term according to the second word group of collaq and slang defs.

slang. first group Duffer

(df(r)) [Connected with DUFF v.1 From the date of the words and senses, it may be inferred that duffer in senses 1 and 2 (the relative priority of which is uncertain) is the starting-point in Eng.; that DUFF v.1 is a back-formation from this, to express the action of the duffer (in a somewhat later application), and that sense 3 of the n. is, in turn, an agent-noun from the vb. Cf. also DUFFING ppl. a., and DUFFER n.2]

I. 1. One who sells trashy goods as valuable, upon false pretences, e.g. pretending that they are smuggled or stolen, and offered as bargains.

1756 1851

1756 W. TOLDERVY Hist. Two Orphans III. 61 These two fellows.. are after being duffers, or some such thieves. 1756 FIELDING in Gentl. Mag. XXVI. 565 Another set of'd duffers..invite you to go down some alley, and buy some cheap India handkerchiefs. 1781 R. KING Mod. Lond. Spy 65 One of the people called Duffers, who pretend to sell smuggled goods, such as silk handkerchiefs, and stockings. 1832 Examiner 268/1 On being searched, a complete stock-in-trade of a duffer was found upon him. His hat was crammed with rings, brooches, seals, &c...and a couple of watches, apparently of immense value..but got up in reality for the purposes of fraud. 1844 DICKENS Mart. Chuz. xxxvii. 1851 MAYHEW Lond. Labour I. 324 Duffers, who vend pretended smuggled goods..also, the sellers of sham sovereigns and sham gold rings for wagers.

2. A pedlar or hawker: see quots.

[1763] 1884

[1763 SIR S. T. JANSSEN Smuggling laid open 19 These Duffers supply the Hawkers, who carry it about the Town, and sell it to the Consumers.] 1795 Fortn. Ramble 22 You have been dealing with a duffer..they carry none but the worst of wares, and charge three times the value of them. 1847-78 HALLIWELL, Duffer, a pedlar; applied exclusively to one who sells women's clothes. South. 1884 S. DOWELL Hist. Taxation III. I. I. iii. 38 A class of persons termed ‘duffers’, ‘packmen’, or ‘Scotchmen’, and sometimes ‘tallymen’, traders who go rounds with samples of goods, and take orders for goods afterwards to be delivered..These duffers were numerous in Cornwall.

II. 3. [f. DUFF v.1 1, 2.] a. One who ‘fakes up’ sham articles. b. (Australia) One who ‘duffs’ cattle.


1851 MAYHEW Lond. Labour (1861) II. 70 The ‘Duffer’ in English birds disguises them so that they shall look like foreigners. 1889 BOLDREWOOD Robbery under Arms (1890) 32 No cattle-duffer in the colonies could have had a better pair of mates. 1890 Col. Reformer xxv. 352 What's a little money..if your children grow up duffers and planters?

colloq. and slang. second group

[The evident association of the word with DUFFING ppl. a., ‘a duffer’ being = ‘a duffing fellow’, ‘a duffing coin or article’, appears to connect the word with DUFF v.1 It is possible, though our quots. do not show it, that the application to things, e.g. to a counterfeit or base coin, is the earlier, and that the term was thence transferred to a man who is similarly ‘no good’. Less probable, though not out of the question, are the suggestions that a duffer is a man of duff or dough, or ‘spongy substance’ (see DUFF n.1, n.2), or that the word is the same as Sc. duffar, duffart ‘a blunt stupid person’, dofart, doofart, dowfart, ‘a dull heavy-headed inactive fellow’ (Jamieson).]

1. colloq. a. A person who proves to be without practical ability or capacity; one who is incapable, inefficient, or useless in his business or occupation; the reverse of an adept or competent person. Also more generally, a stupid or foolish person.


1842 LD. HOUGHTON Let. in Wemyss Reid Life (1891) I. 284, I do not think him the mere duffer that most people make him out. a1845 HOOD (O.), ‘Duffers’ (if I may use a slang term which has now become classical, and which has no exact equivalent in English proper) are generally methodical and old. 1873 BLACK Pr. Thule xxv. (D.), ‘Do you get £800 for a small picture?’..‘Well, no’..‘but then I am a duffer’. 1887 M. E. BRADDON Like & Unlike xvii, I was always a duffer at dancing. 1889 J. K. JEROME Three Men in Boat 171 ‘Is it all right?’..‘Lovely..You are duffers not to come in’. 1891 A. LANG Angling Sketches 8 Next to being an expert, it is well to be a contented duffer.

b. duffer's (or duffers') fortnight, a fortnight of the angling season during which trout are supposed to be caught easily.


1927 Observer 19 June 27/4 That period of imbecility the so-called ‘duffer's fortnight’. 1928 Daily Express 28 May 4/5 This annual festival of the Mayfly inaugurates the ‘Duffers' Fortnight’.

2. slang. A counterfeit coin or article; any article that is ‘no good’. Cf. DUFF v.1 1.


1875 JEVONS Money xxi. 289 The cheques, bills [etc.] are regarded by thieves as ‘duffer’, with which they dare not meddle. 1876 World V. No. 115. 19 He had purchased a veritable ‘duffer’ and could get no redress. 1881 Standard 2 Sept. 5/3 The [picture] gallery of a wealthy but uncritical collector came to the hammer, when..nine-tenths of it were adjudged to consist of ‘duffers’. 1889 Answers 29 June 66/1 (Farmer) If the note is a genuine one the water-mark will then stand out plainly. If a duffer it will almost disappear.

3. Australian and N.Z. Mining. A claim or mine which proves unproductive. Also attrib.

1861 a1928

1861 T. MCCOMBIE Austral. Sk. 193 It was a terrible duffer anyhow, every ounce of gold got from it cost £20 I'll swear. 1863 V. PYKE in App. to Jrnls. House of Reps. N.Z. DVI. 3 The place was rushed by about 500 men, who speedily deserted it, and declared the Waitahuna to be a ‘duffer’. 1864 ROGERS New Rush II. 33 Reposing here, the son of quartz and clay Forgets the duffer he has sunk to day. 1869 R. WAITE Narr. Disc. West Coast Goldfields 15 Those first arrivals chose to call the expedition a duffer rush. 1890 Melbourne Argus 9 Aug. 4/6 We struck the reef at Christmas, but it was a duffer. a1928 D. MCK. WRIGHT in Currie Centennial Treasury Otago Verse 54 We had sunk a hundred holes that was duffers.

Hence (nonce-wds.) dufferdom, dufferism, the style, character, or condition of a duffer.


1893 Field 10 June 832/1 There is no wilful misconduct, but only hopeless dufferism. 1895 Tablet 20 July 96 Aspirations to escape from dufferdom.

duff verb

slang or colloq.

(df) [A word of thieves' slang. Evidently closely related to DUFFER n.1 from which (appearing so much later) it may be a back-formation.]

1. trans. To dress or manipulate (a thing) fraudulently, so as to make it look like new or to give it the appearance of something which it is not; to ‘fake up’.


c1838 J. VAILL in Mem. (1839) 26 My pillow was a duffed great coat. 1870 W. B. SANDERS in 31st Rep. Dep. Keeper Public Rec. p. vi, Some of these..MSS. were so very bad that it would have been impossible to duff them. 1892 Edin. Evening News 3 Mar. 2 A good deal of the old plate was ‘duffed’.

2. (Australia). To alter the brands on (stolen cattle); to steal (cattle), altering the brands.


1869 E. C. BOOTH Another Eng. 138 The man who owned the ‘duffing paddock’ was said to have a knack of altering cattle brands. 1881 Cheq. Career 306 In such districts ‘duffing’ cattle is thought rather a smart thing to do. 1890 BOLDREWOOD Squatter's Dream xiv. 162 He'd think more of duffing a red heifer than all the money in the country.

3. To cheat, do out of fraudulently.


1863 SALA Capt. Dangerous III. ix. 305 Allowing him to duff me out of a few score pieces at the game of Lansquenet.

4. to duff up. a. intr. To become foggy or hazy (see also quot. 1876). colloq. or dial.

1876 1942

1876 F. K. ROBINSON Gloss. Whitby 58/1 Duff up, to drift like road dust on a hot day. 1942 I. GLEED Arise to Conquer x. 94 The weather looks O.K... If it duffs up, Derek, give us a shower of Verey lights to show us the way to come home.

b. trans. To beat (someone) up, to thrash. Hence duffing-up, a thrashing. slang.


1961 Technology May 131/1 Jeff and Bill was duffed up on saterday at st Albans drillhall. 1967 Listener 31 Aug. 261/3 He may have been taughteither through a fine he couldn't pay or a duffing-up he couldn't sustainthat this age has rid itself of some semantic taboos only to enthrone others. 1968 R. LAIT Chance to Kill i. 3 They had been duffed up at the police station. 1970 A. DRAPER Swansong for Rare Bird i. 11 Even when I was getting a good duffing up I just kept on going; as a result I never lost a punch-up.

Hence duffing vbl. n.; also attrib.


1851 MAYHEW Lond. Labour I. 380 ‘Duffing’ and all that is going down fast. 1858 FONBLANQUE Life & Labours (1874) 279 the art of giving such a gloss and air of novelty to old clothes as to pass them off for new. 1869 [see 2]. 1881 Cheq. Career 329 ‘Cattle-duffing’ and free-bootery. 1889 BOLDREWOOD Robbery under Arms (1890) 27 It was a duffing yard, sure enough.

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