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BUMFLE n. a wrinkle in clothing, an unsightly bulge v. to rumple, to cause untidy rumpling.


Bumfle is, according to the Dictionary of the Scots Language probably derived from a similar verb ‘bumph’ ‘a lump, a bump’, which in its turn is probably a variant of ‘humph’ (English ‘hump’ ‘a lump or bump’).


A bumfle or to have something bumfled is always untidy and nearly always refers to the state of one’s clothing. This example from 1913 Ayrshire shows how carrying something in one’s jacket can cause it to appear unsightly:


“…was tickled at my wee bumphled pooches [pockets] stappit fu’ o’ peeries [spinning tops] and bools [marbles].”


This example from Archibald McIlroy’s Burnside shows that it can also be used to describe a perhaps carelessly constructed hairstyle:


“The girls opposite looked self-conscious on account of new dresses and some of them having their hair bumphilled up for the first time.” (Ulster 1908).


In Edinburgh in 1992 a mother was heard to say to her untidy child:


“Yer troosers are aw bumfled where ye've no tucked yer vest in right.”


In Mary McCabe’s 1994 novel Everwinding Times she gives the following example of an emergency way to shorten a skirt:


“Lacking Jasmine's skill with the needle, she rolled the waistband of her school skirt over four times and stretched a waspie around the bumfle.”


This method was also employed by Kathleen Jamie as described in her Among Muslims: meetings at the frontiers of Pakistan (2002):


“I rolled the vast waist over and over upon itself and pulled the tie round hard. I heard my grandmother's voice: ‘Hen, ye’ve got a bumfle!’”.


So it would seem that this useful word has a secure future in the twenty first century.


Scots Word of the Week is written by Pauline Cairns Speitel of Scottish Language Dictionaries 

First published 10th January 2017.