tommyrot and guff

“Tommyrot” means foolishness, twaddle, or nonsense, pretentious or silly talk or writing.

In 1700s military English, “tommy” was a nickname for the poor-quality bread doled out to soldiers as part of their rations. “Tommy-rot” was rotten bread, and, because it was worthless, spoiled beyond use, eventually came to mean “nonsense” in Victorian slang. The Oxford English Dictionary says it was also used to describe the provisions carried to work each day by workmen.

“That’s a load of tommy rot” is used to describe poor quality goods or stupid ideas.


“Guff” means trivial, worthless, or insolent talk. “Guff,” imitating the sound of a gust of wind, entered English in the early 1800s as a reference to a puff or whiff of a bad smell.

The word has the secondary meaning of “backtalk,” which gave rise to a common sentence: “Don’t give me that guff!”

In Canada, “No guff!” means “what I said is true” or it can be an expression of mock surprise at a statement.

A smart audience would be proud of “not taking any guff.”

It gives a new way to describe blowing hot air or talking out of one’s behind.


Both words were used often by my parents, though I don’t hear them very much these days.




  One thought on “tommyrot and guff

  1. August 2, 2020 at 7:49 am

    Our parents had some wonderful vocabulary didn’t they?


  2. Jean Ross
    August 2, 2020 at 10:24 am

    Hmmm. If you’re not hearing much tommy rot these days, then you don’t watch US television. For the past 3 1/2 years, we’ve been hearing plenty of tommy rot coming out of Washington. Trouble is no one there gives that guy much guff. God help us all.


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