• Paul Anthony Jones

Scurryfunge

(v.) to hastily tidy a house

The word scurryfunge popped up on HH this week, defined as a verb meaning “to hastily tidy a house”:

That being said, when it first appeared in the language in the late eighteenth century, scurryfunge originally meant “to beat” or “lash”, and later “to rub” or “to scrub clean”. These two apparently unrelated meanings are perhaps connected through allusion to someone working hard enough or with enough power or elbow-grease to wear away or abrade a surface; in that sense, etymologically scurryfunge may be in some way derived from scour. Precisely where the funge part comes from, however, is a mystery.

By the early twentieth century, scurryfunge had largely fell out of widespread use in the language, apparently surviving only in a handful of regional dialects. By then, however, its meaning had altered slightly—perhaps through later confusion with the word scurry, which has been used to mean “to move rapidly” since the early 1800s:

Scurryfunge. A hasty tidying of the house between the time you see a neighbor coming and the time she knocks on the door.
John Gould, Maine Lingo (1950)

#AmericanEnglish

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