“Foofaraw” is an authentic relic of the Old West in 19th century America, a time and place where it was not uncommon to encounter speakers of something other than English. Thus it appears that English-speaking hunters and trappers picked up “foofaraw” from the Spanish “fanfarrón” (meaning “braggart, showoff”) and possibly also the French form of the same word, “fanfaron.” It appears that the English “foofaraw” was also influenced by the French “frou frou,” originally an “echoic” (or “onomatopoeic”) word for the rustling of petticoats, later adapted to mean “frills and fancy ornamentation.” “Foofaraw,” interestingly, is closely related to another “echoic” word, “fanfare,” which was formed in imitation of the sound of a flourish of trumpets. It is possible, in fact, that “foofaraw” is also an onomatopoeic invention, similarly intended to convey by its sound the empty spectacle of meaningless flamboyance and pretension.

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5 comments on this post.
  1. Gordon Flinders:

    In the “Springfield Strike” episode of The Simpsons, newsman Kent Brockman hosts a panel discussion with Homer, Mr. Burns, and Dr. Joyce Brothers, to discuss whether the strike is a harglebargle or a foofaraw (though I think the closed captioning spells it as “fooferad,” but cc spelling is notoriously suspect).

  2. admin:

    I am deeply envious of people who can call to mind episodes of The Simpsons in that much detail. Seriously.

    I imagine you looked it up to confirm your memory, but I can’t even remember what channel the show is on half the time.

    Gotta go, those damn kids are on my lawn again.

  3. Elizabeth Lightwood:

    Signifying nothing?

  4. Isabel:

    Fanfarrón is very rarely used now in Spanish, but it is derived from fanfarria which translates to … wait for it … fanfare. As in the sound of trumpets that a very foofaraw person might imagine when they step into a room.

  5. Wayne:

    Looking at your alternate meaning of “commotion or brouhaha” calls to mind a free-for-all – sounds similar, wot?

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