fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by marthadog » Sun Oct 24, 2010 5:38 am

I am interested in learning the origin of the term "fiddle and fart around" or "fiddle-fart".
I am finding conflicting information and was wondering if anyone was familiar with the etymology of this phrase.

Thanks for whatever help you can provide!
Post actions:

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Bobinwales » Sun Oct 24, 2010 9:21 pm

I don't think is going to help you at all, I know fiddle around and I know fart around, butb not the two together.
Post actions:
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Oct 29, 2010 4:12 am

Martha, FIDDLING (playing the violin) in this instance is not considered serious work. It is considered play, messing around, a waste of time, and occupying oneself with trivial pursuits when one should be attending to more serious matters – think ‘Nero fiddling while Rome burned.’ But in this instance his fiddling may have been both literal and figurative.

FARTING [as in FARTING AROUND/ABOUT], also has taken on the meaning of not pursuing serious endeavors and wasting time and, in fact, in this sense fiddling and farting are synonyms.

FIDDLE intransitive verb: To waste time; trifle; dally (often followed by around): Stop fiddling around and get to work. (Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

FIDDLE ABOUT or AROUND: To mess about; to waste time. [[goof off]] (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable)

Putting the two together as FIDDLE-FARTING, not only gives double strength to the meaning, but maybe, more importantly, for some, the alliteration trips pleasingly off the tongue.
____________________________________________________________

OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

FIDDLE [intransitive verb]:

b) To act idly or frivolously, to occupy oneself in an ineffectual or trifling way, to potter, or fool around. Also to fiddle about [[to fiddle around (waste time)]].
<1883 “They've had him fiddling about so long in the school, he's most likely forgot how to gallop.”—Hard Times by H. Samrt, I, ii>

<1927 “They fiddle around with small facts and seeming trifles . . . “—Peabody Journal of Education,Vol. 4, No. 5, March, page 268>

<1956 “Why fiddle around with a definitely second-rate collection when, for a little higher price one can purchase the best . . .”—The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 69, No. 274, October-December, page 404>

<1969 “If Stephen began to fiddle around during a lesson, the art teacher generally would not notice him at first. When she did, both he and I and the children around him would prepare for trouble.”—Theory into Practice, Vol. 8, No. 2, April, page 93-94>

<1993 “Leave to Congress and we will fiddle around here all summer . . .”—Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 56, No. 4, Autumn, page 278>

<2001 “Sure, it's a tough draw but when you go to a tournament like the World Cup you go there to win, not to fiddle about.”—The Independent (London), 4 December>

<2010 “However the people that read my books are probably reading books instead of wasting their time fiddling about on Facebook . . .”—The Daily Mail, 19 August>
______________________

FART [[about or around]] intransitive verb [1900]: To fool about or around; to waste time. [[= fiddle about or around]]
<1900 “ Go bon tha! thoo's allus farten aboot, thoo's warse ner a hen wi’ egg.”—in English Dialect Dictionary

<1931 “What the hell do they want to be fartin’ around here for?”—1919 by Dos Passos, page 19 [reference to circa 1918]>

<1937 “Fart about, to dawdle; to waste time; play about.”—in A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge, page 267/1>

<1952 “If the Army wants to fart around for six weeks, it’s their business.”—Battle Cry by L. Uris, page 229>

<1968 “Now don't fart about, Birnie, or I'll get angry.”—A Few Small Bones by H. C. Rae, II.v. page 115>

<1984 “If your daddy don’t quit fartin’ around, I’ll never get past here.”—Blood Song by H. Searls, page288>

<2002 “The only thing that really surprised me about the Internet was how many employers allowed their employees to fart around online when they were supposed to be working . . .”—Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 10 June>

<2009 “‘We are here on earth to fart around.’ So said the late, great writer Kurt Vonnegut, whose seminal novel Slaughterhouse Five retains its place in the list of the top 100 best books ever written. He was joking. I think.”—South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), 26 September>

(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary, Historical Dictionary of Slang and archived sources)
____________________________________________________________

FIDDLE-FARTING / FIDDLEFARTING (most often with AROUND) [mid 1900s and still in use] U.S. slang: Wasting time; fooling/messing around. Shirking one’s duties. Similar to monkey-farting and fiddle-fucking [A blend of fiddling around and farting around] (Slang and Euphemism by R. A. Spears, Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, Historical Dictionary of American Slang (HDAS), and Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE))
<1975 “Fiddle fart around . . . loaf , shirk responsibility.”—American Speech (as of circa 1970), Vol. 50, page 59>

<1976 “William A. Doubleday . . . said today the town would stand an excellent chance of obtaining the funds if they would ‘stop hemming and hawing, and fiddle farting around.’”—North Adams Transcript (Massachusetts), 21 May, page 6>

<1976 “By the time they’re through fiddlefartin’ around, three months have passed.”—University of Tennessee student.> [in HDAS]

<1984 “While they fiddle-fart around at triple time.”—Cocktail by H. Gould, page 16>

<1986 “Three local expressions . . . fiddle around, fiddle-fart around, and fiddle-fartin’ all carry the connotation of wasting time.”—Newsletter of the American Dialect Society>

<1999 “As it is, I spend half my time fiddle-farting around, twiddling my thumbs, trying to look busy.”—Dead Silence by R. Handberg, page 96>

<2005 “‘We've been fiddle-farting for 15 years,’ said Tim Funk, housing-project director for Crossroads Urban Center. ‘Salt Lake City has known they've had a need and they've spent years talking about it and done little or nothing.’”—Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), 6 July>

<2008 “Huge mumbled all the way back to the shop where he climbed into the service truck. ‘Enough of this fiddle farting around, he grumbled . . .”—Stink Dough’s Truck Stop by S. R. Hutchinson, page 72-73>
(quotes from HDAS, DARE, and archived sources)
____________________

Ken – October 28, 2010
Post actions:

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Oct 29, 2010 5:09 am

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang presents a further possible derivation in its entry:

fiddle-fart/fiddle-fart around v. [20C] to waste time, to shirk one's duties [? fiddlefoot, for a horse to make jumpy, skittish movements; thus fiddlefoot, to wander aimlessly]

It doesn't seem impossible to me that the term could have evolved in parallel from separate origins, but that's purely speculation on my part.
Post actions:
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Oct 29, 2010 7:25 am

Erik, There is one fly in the ointment with Cassell’s speculation on the derivation of FIDDLE-FART. Cassell’s (2nd edition – 2005) dates it from the 1910s and doesn’t list FIDDLE-FOOTED at all. But the Dictionary of Regional English (DARE), Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and Merriam-Webster Online date FIDDLE-FOOTED from 1941 (and DARE provides the 1941 quote). If Cassell’s 1910s date for FIDDLE-FART is correct, and if the others for FIDDLE-FOOTED are correct then FIDDLE-FART could not have derived from FIDDLE-FOOTED. However, I do question Cassell’s 1910s date, since the earliest that I came come up with was from the 1970s. I’ll give it another go-round to see if I can find an earlier FIDDLE-FART. But when an author doesn’t provide a quote to back up their claim, I am often doubtful. However, Cassell’s, which doesn’t generally provide quotes, is usually pretty accurate. Sooo, I don’t know.
___________________

Ken – October 29, 2010
Post actions:

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:24 pm

Which just goes to show that slang doesn't have to be of the moment to keep changing, at least when they publish a new edition of a dictionary.
Post actions:
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Phil White » Fri Oct 29, 2010 10:38 pm

Just for entertainment: One of my dear grandmam's favourite expressions was "stop wandering round like a fart in a colander!"

I still love it.
Post actions:
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Mel » Sun Oct 31, 2010 1:22 pm

Could the fart part of this originate in the Gernan "fahren" to travel or go.

In the good old days when I drove to Denmark I used the Middle Fahrt ferry, before they built the bridge. Since then there is no fiddle farting getting on and off the boats.
Post actions:
Signature: Another season another reason....

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Oct 31, 2010 2:03 pm

Mel, the word for the town is 'Middelfart', and it is Danish, not German. It means 'middle (sea) passage' or possibly 'the water you travel through', referring to the stretch of water between the east side of the Jutland peninsula on which the town of Middelfart stands and the island of Fünen ('Fyn' in Danish) which the Middelfart ferry once plied.
Post actions:

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by Phil White » Sun Oct 31, 2010 3:01 pm

Mel,

The modern German "Furz" (fart) and "Fahrt" (journey) come from different roots as far as can be established back to Old High German. It would appear that one went into English and the other didn't. The words are almost certainly unrelated, although any relationship may have been at some point lost in the mists of time.

There is a modern German idiom "einen fahren lassen" (approx. "let one go") meaning "to fart", but this is far more recent and comes to us through an entirely different passage, as it were.
Post actions:
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: fiddle / fart / fiddle-fart

Post by judomagic » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:56 am

In 1963 in San Francisco, Ca. I was playing around with funny words and I came up with fiddlefart. I do not know if it had been in use before (I was only 17) so I started using it everywhere I went. Mostly up and down the California coast, Hawaii and in correspondence. I put it into as many conversations as I could and people would always say that they had never that expression but they knew immediately what I meant. In the ensuing years I traveled to New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Honolulu, Fairbanks, motorcycled through California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon. It wasn't until 2001 that I heard someone I didn't know use that word. They did not know where they first heard but thought it was in common usage. There is no way I can prove that I was the first, it was just a teenage experiment about how words become incorporated in general use. I am not like the people at the Oxford English Dictionary that researches the first usage of a word in print. Does anyone know when the first recorded use of fiddlefart was used?
Post actions:

End of topic.
Post Reply