The Pleasure of “Piffle”

“Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?”

“So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night

“If anyone were to marry you, Peter, it would be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle.”

― Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

I’m addicted to words. I love how they sound, how they move people, and how many different shades of meaning they can have. Finding the right word for a scene is my obsession. Not only the ideas but the syllables must flow. As a result, I admit, I tend to overwrite.

Words are brilliant at triggering reactions. Words like “lurch” and “stagger” have the hard consonants that create tension. “Fluffy” and “cozy” have soft tones. Then you have the wonderfully silly-sounding words that are hard to say these days without a smile. Even the word “molly-coddling”, a negative thing, makes me want to giggle.

Yet, some of my favorite written words aren’t used anymore. These words have the exact tone I want, but they aren’t usable because they sound archaic. Modern people just don’t talk like that.

I particularly love “piffle”. Meaning “frivolous talk”, it isn’t a good thing necessarily, but it sounds adorable. It, in my opinion, it takes the sting out of any criticism.

As time passes, language gets harsher and cruder. F-bombs drop everywhere. Discussions become angrier. It seems that arguments end in violence or rage more often. What’s a possible answer?

I think words like “piffle,” words that express frustration without ire or real visceral insult, should be returned to common usage. It might calm down rhetoric if you could just be silly like that.

I can’t imagine anyone getting punched for using “piffle”, though I’m sure someone accused of it can get offended. If nothing else, it would deflect and distract the ranter from his rant.

Can you imagine one Senator telling another “stop talking piffle”? How many varieties of red would the said Senator’s face change? Yet, to swear back at the speaker would be seen as excessive and childish. What a way to stop escalations!

Now I will stop talking piffle.

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