Suffonsified vs Suffulsified

I got an interesting email today from my friend Ted back east. He had read my last blog posting and commented that the phrase I had used, sufficiently suffulsified, should actually be sufficiently suffonsified. I was curious, since I’d never heard suffonsified before. Neither word is in the dictionary, so that didn’t help me much. Since Ted is a bit of a word wizard, I deferred to him and changed my posting.

But then he did some internet trolling of his own, and came up with this, which I find a fascinating bit of history. Seems we were both right.

[Q] From Ruth Gaeta: “I hope you can run down an elusive phrase, part of which I can’t spell. It’s from Virginia-North Carolina, an older generation, (maybe a hundred years back) and probably from the Appalachians. Three different older friends remember their grandmothers using it. It means ‘I’m full’ or ‘I’ve had plenty to eat’. Phonetically: ‘My sufficiency is serrancified’.

[A] You’ve led me a merry dance with this one. I can’t find that exact word, but there are a number of close relatives around, which some American Dialect Society members have helped me tease out.The phrase seems to be a variation on a polite rejoinder that was once quite widely known and is still around. A host might ask if you have had enough to eat. Rather than just say that you had had enough, being fearful that so bald a statement might be taken as unrefined or ill-bred, you might instead say, “I’ve had an elegant sufficiency”. This presumably has its origin in some catch phrase old enough that it has had time to disseminate widely, since I’ve seen examples from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Australia, and the USA. A possible source is a poem called Spring by James Thomson, dating from the middle of the eighteenth century, very widely quoted during that century and the following one:

An elegant sufficiency, content,
Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
Ease and alternate labor, useful life,
Progressive virtue, and approving Heaven;
These are the matchless joys of virtuous love.
Paul McFedries, who runs the wordSpy mailing list, wrote to say, “My grandmother-in-law (born and raised in Southern Ontario) often says ‘my sufficiency is suffonsified’ “. He found an example of this spelling online: “My sufficiency is suffonsified; any more would be double superfluency”. He also turned up some variations, such as: “After a fine meal was served and eaten, she would sit back in her chair and say ‘My sufficiency is suffancified’ “, as well as the hugely elaborated “All of my sufficiencies have been suffulsified and any further indulgence on my part may well prove to be super sanctimonious”.

All the examples I’ve quoted seem to be jocular elaborations of satisfied, perhaps as subscriber G. H. Gordon Paterson suggested, a punning blend of sufficient and fancified, but nothing I’ve turned up shows how that word became so baroquely decorated in parts of North America. I suspect that it is from the same grandiloquent and  flamboyant fashion that gave us words like absquatulate, but tying down its early history is hard, as it appears in no dictionary I can trace.

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Suffonsified vs Suffulsified

  1. I’ve been saying ‘sufficiently suffulsified’ (no idea if that’s the spelling as I picked it up orally – sounds like a disease!) and my young friend picked it up from me. I had also tried to look it up in the dictionary years ago, when my spelling and pronunciation were challenged. Having not found it, I reported to all who knew me that it wasn’t a real word but a made-up one. My young friend is now ten and comments on this every time I use it. Now I have some further developments. How interesting that such a ‘non-word’ has such a history of use, particularly in polite company!

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  2. It’s funny as I came across your post while researching the origins of a phrase that was taught to me when I was 5 years old, by the president of the bank where my mother worked. He had to be in his 70s by that time. I’ve since taught it to my children as well…

    “My sufficiency has been suffonsified and any more would be obnoxious to the superfluity of my capacity” or easier stated.. “I’ve had enough”

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