Q From Nick Carrington, UK: What’s the origin of shufty, meaning look, as in take a shufty?
A Shufti (another way of writing it, the one usually given in dictionaries) is Arabic. In that language it means “have you seen?”. It’s a bit of military slang, picked up by British servicemen formerly based in the Middle East. The first recorded examples in print are from the Second World War, suggesting that it may have originated among soldiers in the desert campaign. However, Eric Partridge says that it actually started life with Royal Air Force stations in that area about 1925, but that it had spread to the Army by 1930. This seems probable, to judge from the extent of its use in World War Two, and the number of compounds it spawned, none of which seem to have survived the end of the War. Among them, Partridge mentions shuftiscope, which had a number of senses, one of which he defines with ponderous delicacy as “an instrument used by doctors for research in cases of dysentery”.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods; Binge-watching; Codswallop; That’s all she wrote; Great Scott; Gone for a Burton; Pull the plug; Bob’s your uncle; Gibberish; You snowing me?; Chi-ike; Salop
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!