Birging and Corfing

Who remembers the wonderful game show they used to run on British TV, Call My Bluff? The show featured two teams of awesomely witty celebrity contestants.

An obscure word was given:  one team would give three definitions, only one of which was correct, the other two being brilliantly plausible bluffs. The other team had to guess the correct definition.

I wonder what they would have done with Birging and Corfing.

Birging and corfing are London dockworkers’ slang terms, respectively, for retching, and hacking up phlegm and shooting it across the room.

Birging and corfing are terms used in crowd sociology theory developed in the 1950s.

Birging and corfing are specialised terms coined by ornithologists to refer to the mating rituals of a subspecies of pigeon inhabiting urban wasteland in northern Europe.

The second definition is the correct one.

The two words are acronyms stemming from Heider’s (1958) “balance theory” and are unlikely ever to hit the mainstream.

Birging = bathing in reflected glory ( an enhancement tactic)
Corfing = cutting off reflective failures (image protection tactic)

But what I find truly fascinating is how an acronym can so easily make the transition to wordhood. All you need do is use it as one and you’re rolling.

Put your examples in the comments.

(While I wallow in nostalgia watching the show here.)

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6 Responses

  1. I was seated near a man who engaged in the first definition this past weekend at the theater. Really annoying and very distracting to have constant hawking.

    My best friend and I used to play the dictionary game. Find a word at random in the dictionary, and then make up a definition and use the word in a sentence. We cracked ourselves up! 🙂

  2. I would have lost the game, as the first definition seems most plausible to me. I can imagine the show would provide some great fun!

  3. I, too, would have lost this game! The first definition feels correct. I’ll follow the link and watch the show. What fun.

  4. Wonderful post. I loved the second definition and the opportunity to learn a little more about these fine creatures.

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