Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 17:11:16 -0400

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: biff

On my American English class's listserv, a student wrote:

"As Dr. Bergdahl was talking about words that people biff, such as

Pulitzer Surprise, one such word came to my mind. Actually, I almost

biffed it when I was typing it in a friend's e-mail message today. The

word is this morning, but for some reason, in my head, I couldn't think

how to spell it because I was thinking of this smorning, which is how it

sounds when you say it. As a result, I almost typed it in like that. I

had to think twice before I typed it in and then realized it was this

morning. I was wondering if anyone else out there has the same problem as

I with certain words. Respond back if you do."

I'd never met "biff" before: anyone else familiar with it? The reference

is to Pinker's discussion of what we on this list have been calling


Pamela Munro's 1989 _U.C.L.A. Slang_ has an entry for _biff_ 'fail (an

examination)', which I suspect is simply an overly specific definition.

The word must mean 'screw up', broadly. I've heard a few other


Jesse Sheidlower

Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang