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Learn something new every day


I just encountered the word bumpf, which I initially assumed was a typo but I couldn't figure out for what. A quick search revealed that it's in widespread use online. MW10 said it's not a word—but suggested bumf instead. And searching on that resulted in a World Wide Words article explaining the meaning and origin of the word (which differs somewhat from what MW10 says). Apparently it can either refer to bureaucratic paperwork or to junk mail (and other useless paper such as propaganda); either way, bumf derives from bum-fodder, which is to say toilet paper. Chiefly British and Canadian term, apparently.

(I'm obliquely reminded that I'd been seeing the British phrase "sod off!" for many years before someone explained to me that "sod" in that phrase derives from "sodomy.")


bumfodder the word originated in the ww1 trenches as there was a lack of loo paper. and orders were coming in great numbers hence bumpf.

Thanks for the note, Anonymous. But I should mention that according to the World Wide Words article I linked to, the term "bumfodder" actually goes back to around 1650. It may well have been repopularized during WWI, though.

Jonathan Swift in "To a Young Poet," regarding the great use of paper by poets, advises that "but for our writers, the nation would in a little time be utterly destitute of bumfodder, and must of necessity import the same from England and Holland, where they have it in grat abundance..."

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