When I wrote my first e-novel “Loonies in the Dugout” the word piffle came out of the mouth of Eveleen Sullivan. It was a serendipitous writing moment. By that, I mean, it was an automatic response her character gave to something someone said. At the time I had no idea of the origin of the word, nor what it meant, nor even if it was a word. I just liked the sound of it and I liked the idea of it being a character signature for Eveleen. So she said it at appropriate moments-for her of course, I had nothing to do with it. I may be a writer, but I will not put words in characters mouths. They think and talk for themselves you know.
She also used the word in my second e-novel, based on the true story of the unsolved murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor in 1922 called “Loonies in Hollywood.” I knew of a website devoted to groupies, aficionados, or whatever devoted follows of a famous murder can be called, so I read through their conversations and found them talking about my book. One of them said, “what is up with piffle anyway.”
In truth I had no idea how the word came out of my head-or into Eveleen’s mouth. I must have heard the word at some time, or read it somewhere, and it just lodged deep in my memory bank waiting for a withdrawal. Then it just popped out while writing. It is one of the joys of writing.
So I did some research. Apparently it came into use about 1890. It was slang , origin unknown, to describe words or ideas that are false or silly. According to American Heritage Dictionary: To talk act in a foolish, feeble, or futile way. Nonsense-noun.
And nonsense is what Eveleen meant when she said piffle. She was reacting to something that she thought was nonsense. A jazz age term would be applesauce. One can also say balderdash, bull, claptrap, fiddle-faddle, flapdoodle, hogwash, horsefeathers, humbug (Scrooge), malarkey, poppycock, rubbish, tommyrot, twaddle, among other fun and colorful words.
Eveleen will continue to say piffle and I love her for it. It is who she is, besides being smart, funny, and adorable.
And that’s what’s up with piffle.