Friday, September 7, 2007

Where's the Polisher?

This picture was taken in the women's washroom of an upscale mall called Shin Kong Place.

It says "bumf box" and below the label are paper towels.

I just looked up what bumf means in the the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Etymology: from bumf toilet paper, short for bumfodder, from 1bum + fodder
chiefly British : PAPERWORK
So while the intention is correct, the word isn't quite right. The Chinese characters are correct for paper towel. I wonder where they got bumf from...

Where's the language polisher when you need one?

1 comment:

IheartNY said...

i liked this definition from Michael Quinion:

It’s an expressive and pithy word for all the dross that comes in the mail. It’s even more appropriate when you know where it comes from.

It was originally British English, possibly public school slang, at least according to Barrère and Leland’s Dictionary of Slang of 1889. From there it dispersed to other parts of the former British Empire, but it is less well known in the US, I believe.

Its source is usually taken to be the much older bum-fodder. The sense was the one that you give, of useless or tedious printed information or documents — material whose only conceivable use was to be torn up, hung up on a nail in the privy and used as toilet paper. The full term was first recorded in the period of the Commonwealth in Britain, about 1650 — I remember seeing a political pamphlet of about that date which uses the word in its title. Its first recorded appearance is in 1651, in the first volume of Sir Thomas Urquhart’s translation of the works of Rabelais. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was probably derived from the classical Latin anitergium, arse-wiper.