"turfed from office"....."

Discuss word origins and meanings.

"turfed from office"....."

Post by JANE DOErell » Thu Jan 08, 2009 5:57 pm

Washingtonpost.com says "The [Australian] newspaper noted, however, that since Howard was "turfed from office"....."

A dictionary says "[turfed] MAINLY UK INFORMAL
to force someone to leave a place or an organization". This was fairly obvious in the posts article. Howard was described as a "former head of government".

The question is how did we get from the old English for a "slab of grass" to a verb meaning "force someone to leave"?

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by trolley » Thu Jan 08, 2009 7:04 pm

"Turfed" is a fairly common expression here on the west coast of Canada. It means thrown out. (on the ground). We use "turf " in a broader sense than just grass sod. It is the ground, or an area that is claimed by someone. Gangs have their own turf.

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Jan 09, 2009 12:07 pm

JOHN Howard has defended his role in kicking US president-elect Barack Obama out of a bed at Washington's Blair House in the lead-up to the inauguration, dismissing reports he will be staying there with an entourage.

The former prime minister revealed he was picking up his own tab to travel to the US to receive a prestigious award from US President George W. Bush, after running up taxpayer-funded bills of more than $257,864 for travel and other expenses since he was turfed from office.
.. Jane this is poor journalism and an attempt by the journalist to get a bit of emotional heat into the event .. former Prime Minister John Howard .. (Little Johnny to his friends) .. was not turfed from office in the sense you describe .. his government lost the last Federal election and he was replaced by a Labor Prime Minister .. all very democratic and fair ..

.. Aussies do use turf out in the sense of being thrown out or ejected, eg "He was turfed out of the pub because he was drunk." .. we also say turfed off with a similar sense, eg "He was turfed off the train because he hadn't paid his fare." ..

.. John Ayto in the Oxford Dictionary of Slang attests a date of 1888 .. however he does not give the quote or any etymology .. over to Ken it seems ..

Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sat Jan 10, 2009 8:35 am

Jane, John, and Wiz, Here’s what I was able to dredge up:


TURF OUT [British, colloquial]: To throw out; remove, discard, dismiss, etc.


TURF verb transitive: To throw or kick (a person, etc.) forcibly out (occasionally off); also transferred colloquial. Without construction (Public School slang), to kick.
<1888 “The Colonel will turf you out of that in double quick time.”—Only Subaltern in Under the Deodars by Kipling, page 97>

<1905 “Sorry I turfed that little ass so hard . . . [Note] To ‘turf,’ i.e. to kick—Harroviana.”—The Hill by H. A. Vachell, ii. page 32>

<1925 “The old boy turfed me out, Bertie, because he said I was a brainless nincompoop.”—Carry on, Jeeves! by Wodehouse, page 90>

<1930 “She'd bought hundreds of them [sc. magazines]. I've just had them turfed out.”— Angel Pavement by J. B. Priestley, viii. page 410>

<1957 “The guv'nor tried turfing them all out at first . .. but he's given up the struggle.”—City of Spades by C. MacInnes, II. iv. page 128>

<1976 “These people have become my colleagues. If you use that sort of language about them I'll have to turf you out myself.”—A Memorial Service by J. I. M. Stewart, iv. page 58>

<1977 “The plane's loaded. . . I can't turf off passengers.”—Autumn Heroes by ‘O. Jacks, iv. page 60>

<1988 “Whatever; after 1992 it may be difficult to turf out Japanese banks established in Europe.”— The Economist, 8 October>

<1997 “To qualify for subsidies, European steelmakers had to cut capacity severely and turf out large swathes of their workforce.”—The Independent (London), 23 March>

<2002 “And fully a quarter of GPs want the right to turf off such rude patients from surgery lists.”—The Scotsman (Edinburgh), 20 August>

<2002 “But after he was turfed from office by the voters, his site quickly disappeared, . . .”—Future Active: Media Activism and the Internet by Graham Meikle, page 45>

<2004 “In Terminator terms he told the delegates: ‘I'm back to turf out the over-promoted Labour machine politicians . . .”—The Scotsman (Edinburgh), 25 September>

<2006 “It proves voters at a state level won't turf out Labor unless they are confident about the alternative. AAP General News (Australia), 27 November>

<2009 “. . . 6,000 fans travelled to London to see them turf out Chelsea in a penalty shoot-out.”— Sunday Mirror (London), 4 January>
(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)

But the above fails to mention from whence the expression came. Eric Partridge in A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English discusses turf (verb and noun), turf out (verb), and turf off (verb), but as far as I can make out never really commits to an ultimate origin, or even suggests one, although he provides some interesting old British school slang usages (e.g. turf noun: The cricket pitch, the field being long grass: Winchester School from circa 1860 . . . . . ; verb: To send (a boy) to bed at bedtime: Derby School from circa 1880 . . . turf off: To remove, either by orders of bodily force, someone from somewhere. . . turf out: To kick out; to expel . . . Hence, to throw away or discard . . .)

CASSELL’S DICTIONARY OF SLANG, however, does take a stab at what would seem a reasonable choice – what the hell, why not?:

TURF OUT verb (also TURF OFF 1) [late 19th century and still in use]: To eject, to throw out, supposedly onto some grass; to dismiss from a job. 2) [1950s] (New Zealand) (also TURF to reject a lover).

But although grass (connected to a bit of earth) would be my sentimental favorite, beware of reasonable choices – they are sometimes also known as folk etymology and urban legend. So, I'd say a more certain choice for this one would certainly be origin uncertain. (>:)

Ken – January 9, 2009

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Tony Farg » Sat Jan 10, 2009 4:30 pm

Musing about it, could not the origin be something to do with the ejection of animals from their winter housing into the fields (of grass)?

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by PhilHunt » Tue Jan 13, 2009 6:30 pm

I think Ken is dismissing the grass reference too quickly.
turf (n.)
O.E. turf, tyrf "slab of soil and grass," also "surface of grassland," from P.Gmc. *turb- (cf. O.N. torf, Dan. tørv, O.Fris. turf, O.H.G. zurba, Ger. Torf), from PIE base *drbh- (cf. Skt. darbhah "tuft of grass"). Fr. tourbe "turf" is a Gmc. loan-word. The O.E. plural was identical with the singluar, but in M.E. turves sometimes was used. Slang meaning "territory claimed by a gang" is attested from 1953 in Brooklyn, N.Y.; earlier it had a jive talk sense of "the street, the sidewalk" (1930s), which is attested in hobo use from 1899, and before that "the work and venue of a prostitute" (1860). The verb is attested from c.1430, originally "to cover (ground) with turf." Turf war is recorded from 1950s.
If the verb 'to turf' was being used as early as c.1430 why is it not logical to assume that 'turf off' is connected in some way.
If 'turf' = 'to cover ground' would it not be logical to assume that 'turf off' might have originally meant to uncover ground, or to remove the grass from the soil?
From here there would be a simple leap of logic to the present use, especially considering that 'turf' can also mean 'territory'.
Signature: That which we cannot speak of, must be passed over in silence...or else tweeted.

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:57 pm

Phil, I wasn't dismissing the the grass reference as a possible origin for the verb when I said:
“although grass (connected to a bit of earth) [[a.k.a. ‘turf’] would be my sentimental favorite”
It's the obvious choice. But “logical to assume” and “proof” are not the same thing and two big hitters, Partridge and the OED, do not commit to “turf / grass (connected to a bit of earth)” as the origin, while Cassell's only says “supposedly onto the grass.” There being no proof positive, at least that I could find, it seems to me that the source cannot be stated with certainty.

Ken – January 13, 2009

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:40 am

When someone is banned from attending horse-racing meetings for conduct unbecoming, are they not "warned off the turf"?
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by PhilHunt » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:15 am

Fair point Ken.
I guess my unscientific mind deals in hunches more than proof. That's why I will never be a good etymologist. :)
Signature: That which we cannot speak of, must be passed over in silence...or else tweeted.

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Wizard of Oz » Thu Jan 15, 2009 4:23 am

.. tony I think your suggestion is much closer to the mark than any suggestion that being turfed has a beginning in being thrown onto the grass .. it would be more likely that it was not grass that one was turfed onto .. but your idea of turning out the herd after a winter recess and hence they are being turned out onto the turf (grass) seems to have at least investigative merit ..

WoZ remembering fondly many times that he has been turfed ......
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

turf out [threads merged - moderator]

Post by hsargent » Wed Jul 03, 2013 11:07 pm

My British friend popped this one on us.

Verb 1. turf out - put out or expel from a placeturf out - put out or expel from a place; "The unruly student was excluded from the game"
eject, boot out, chuck out, exclude, turn out
evict, force out - expel from one's property or force to move out by a legal process; "The landlord evicted the tenants after they had not paid the rent for four months"
evict - expel or eject without recourse to legal process; "The landlord wanted to evict the tenants so he banged on the pipes every morning at 3 a.m."
show the door - ask to leave; "I was shown the door when I asked for a raise"
bounce - eject from the premises; "The ex-boxer's job is to bounce people who want to enter this private club"
exorcise, exorcize - expel through adjuration or prayers; "exorcise evil spirits"
expel, kick out, throw out - force to leave or move out; "He was expelled from his native country"
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: turf out

Post by trolley » Thu Jul 04, 2013 12:11 am

We kicked this one around a few years ago. I remember being surprised that it wasn't as common as I'd thought. Search "turfed from office".

Re: turf out

Post by hsargent » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:09 pm

I could not get any response from the search on WW.
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by tony h » Thu Jul 04, 2013 7:04 pm

One aspect to "turfing out" that hasn't come across in these posts is that, in my experience, it has a sense of removing things that have overstayed or been forgotten.

So: I decided to turf out the garage as it hadn't been cleared out for four years.
Having had a few friends over for drinks on Friday night the last of them turfed out on Tuesday morning.
I decided to turf out the typewriter ribbons. (actually I still use a typewriter)

But "the 8:10 train turfed out at 8:10" doesn't work as the train was on time.
Signature: tony

I'm puzzled therefore I think.

Re: "turfed from office"....."

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Jul 06, 2013 11:00 am

.. sorry tony I have never seen or heard turf/turfed in that way ..

WoZ wondering
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Post Reply