In the last few months, I have noticed a word showing up over and over. I’ve seen it in both books and news stories and I cannot recall ever having seen it before.
Wonderful, another new word to show me how completely out of touch I am.
The word is ‘Boffin’.
Just looking at the word, I am drawn to the concept of puppets hitting one another or some kind of comedic event.
It’s not hard to discern the meaning by its context. I just ran a query on boffin on Google News and this is a sampling of what I got:
“Brain Can’t Handle More Than 150 Facebook Friends Finds Oxford Boffin”
“Aliens will have our worst traits claims Boffin”
“German Boffin wants to make dumb gadgets smart”
“Boffin calculates pi to 2.7 trillion digits”
So, in American English, the translation appears to be ‘geek’, ‘egghead’, ‘person who is too smart for their own good’.
The context seems to keep things just on the geek side of the geek/nerd line (geek is someone with particular interest or skill; nerd denotes social awkwardness).
So, I did what anyone would do, I went to Wikipedia.
“...boffins are scientists, medical doctors, engineers and other people engaged in technical or scientific research.”
It came into use during and after World War II, where it was applied to those described as a modern-day wizard who labored in secret to create incomprehensible devices of great power. From the look of the headlines that are associated with the term now, it is currently used for scientist in general.
It seems strange that a word can get by for so long without notice. Maybe it fell into disuse for a decade or three and is only now having a resurgence. Perhaps I just ignored it.
At least I know it isn’t something I didn’t understand because I am getting old and senile. At least I hope not.