Slice of Life Story - A Load of Old Piffle

Words come and go. They fall out of favour and new words enter the lexicon all the time. We accept and understand the evolving nature of language. That is what makes it so intriguing. Shades of meaning also exist and terms I heard when living in America sometimes held different meaning back home in Australia. I was always conscious of these differences when out and about. So often we find ourselves code shifting when in different social settings. That’s what makes language so fascinating

Today, in the school I was visiting, I heard a word I have not heard for some time. A teacher engaged in a conversation with a colleague used the term ‘piffle’ (perhaps a blend of piddle and trifle; circa 1878 meaning to talk or act in a trivial, inept, or ineffective way foolish or futile talk or ideas; nonsense.) I can recall my mother using that exact word with phrases such as ‘What a load of piffle!’ I wondered what today’s generation would make of the word piffle?

It seems to me that most people are content to offer a few stock words and phrases in our modern conversation. Rather than expand the range of language used, television and the mass media have limited the range of expression. Such a global influence has resulted in the loss of a plethora of words, phrases and sayings. Mass media speak has standardized the way many of us convey information. Language has become simpler and less nuanced. Colourful expressions such as, ‘Don’t stand around like a spare groom at a wedding’ have been reduced to the less exciting: ‘Get real!’ So I can see why words like piffle have fallen by the way.  Now, all this wondering has lead to me writing this piffling poem:

A Load of Piffle

I heard the man who lives in the apartment next door
Say to his wife
That’s a load of piffle
And I wondered to myself
Why did he take a load of piffle into his apartment?
How did he get that all that piffle upstairs?
Did he carry it up the stairs in a bucket?
Did he carry it on his back?
Or did he put the piffle in his pocket
And plod up the stairs

And now that he’s got that piffle upstairs
What will he do with it?
And what does a pile of piffle look like anyway?

I have to say I find piffle particularly puzzling

So I say, let’s hear it for words like piffle and all those other long forgotten words. Words like codger, lingo ,and fopdoodle to name but a few. Let's make an effort to restore some vitality to our somewhat diluted conversations.


  1. I have noticed a lot of folks around here using terms I think of as British such as spot on. Probably the influence of movies. I remember hearing a phrase in an Australian film awhile ago that I loved, seemed like on that really summed up the act of being selfish but I cannot remember the phrase. I keep listening for it, hoping it will come back into my life one of these day.

  2. I love this piece and think we should try to revive lots of deceased language. As a high school student, I enjoyed speaking in Latin for the very reason that no language should become extinct!

  3. Love it! I am from a rural area of eastern Ohio and will often use phrases from my grandparents that make people stop and think twice. I love historical fiction for that reason (well for many, that being one) - it exposes our children to a richness of language that they aren't used to hearing. Great post - it gives me much to ponder.


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