Posted by: episystechpubs | July 20, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Buffalo, No Bull

A big “thank you” to Ron Fauset for supplying me with articles from the San Diego Union-Tribune so that I can enjoy them and be a little lazy now and then. Today’s article is by Richard Lederer and it’s about slang and idiomatic phrases from the word buffalo.

Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is a possible sen­tence, and it raises the question why buffalo has become a verb denoting “to confuse, frustrate, intimidate.” The answer is that, despite the slaughter of tens of millions in the United States, the animal is hard to kill individually. Buffalo are swift, tough and belligerent. The vogue meaning of buff as “well built, muscular, hunky” reflects buffalo, an image of rugged strength.

Products made from buffalo were plentiful in the 19th century, including strips of buffalo hide that were used to bring metals such as silver to a high polish. That’s where we get the verb to buff. Firemen wore buffalo robes as their winter gear. Because these buffcoats were the color of human Caucasian skin, in the buff arose as a synonym for “naked.”

Dandies who had nothing better to do than to rush to fires and watch the burning emulated the firefighters by donning the same buffcoats, as they were called. These men became known as buffs, and, by extension, a buff is anyone avidly devoted to a pursuit or hobby.

To read the remainder of this article and to take Mr. Lederer’s quiz on animal verbs, click here.

Confused by Buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo as a sentence? Maybe it should also include Mark Ruffalo? No, I’m kidding. Here’s an approximate “translation” for you: Buffalos (or buffaloes, or buffalo—all three are appropriate versions of the plural form for buffalo) from Buffalo, New York frustrate and intimidate other buffalos from Buffalo, New York.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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