Friday, June 27, 2014

Farb-a-licious !

The word Farb is one of my favorites. Especially as it is so versatile: farb, farby, farbulous, farboishness, farbosity, farbapalooza(I can go on all day with variations I have actually used).

 But here is what irritates me.  All kinds of people talk about the origin of the term as if they were right there at the start.  I wasn’t. I bet you weren’t as well.

What I can say is that I first started hearing the term in the (wonderful) Dark Ages group The Markland Medieval Mercenary Militia. NOT to be confused with the highly farbish SCA. 

This was mid 70s. Long before most of you guys out there had even heard of reenacting (let alone been born).  I asked around about where the hell the word came from, and what it really meant.

It was at the 1,010th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Hastings (take that 125th ACW vets!) when a friend pointed to a guy and told “hey, I think he knows about the word farb.” I went over and asked the guy.  Sadly, I no longer have no idea who it was.

He was an old time ACW reenactor and told me it came from there, and had been started by a friend of his.  Seems they wanted a polite way of pointing out stupid non-period stuff that was out of character when walking around the camp. The example given to me was that there might be a blue cooler sitting outside a tent. They could nod that way and say “Farb.” Meaning Look at the totally wrong colored item. The guys with said item would have no idea they had just been dissed. I just assumed that since this  was so reasonable and probable it was true.

And then, many, MANY years later after most people who would have been around in the early days, some WW2 reenactors from the Midwest started telling people it was short for ‘far be it from me to blah blah blah…’  I remember the first time I heard that. I thought it was so totally stupid and obviously a derivative explanation based upon a best guess by someone that had no real clue. I mean, WHAT are the chances someone would come up with that? Seriously? Unless they had the word farb to being with and were trying to think of what it could be from.

Then, the whole far be it thing gets in print (although to be honest I had printed the German color explanation long beforehand in a unit newsletter and not one person every told me they had heard of another answer).  And as the old reenactment guard drifted away, the new experts decided they had read the "far be" thing in print so it must be true.

Even later it pissed me off reading wikkipediahat they didn’t even consider a different meaning. I added in my explanation with dates and such so that an alternative (and probably correct) version was at least represented.  It was deleted in a week.

So I was really pleased to discover the writings of Jonah Begone, Scourge of American Civil War Reenacting !

He writes a lot of really amusing stuff about ACW and REV war reenacting. Not really my periods, but his comments ring so true to other periods I have been in that I find them a hoot. I also find it even more of a hoot that reenactment humor translates so well between periods. I recommend them highly.

Anyway, The esteemed Jonah (not his real name) happened to write a nice little article about the word Farb that puts everyone else to shame. HE has names, places, units, and dates.  Take that far be it.crowd.  I thnk we can finally say  BUSTED!

I mean think of it.  What makes more sense? Some guys use a simple German word to privately indicate to each other that something is not authentic, or someone takes a strangely worded and highly awkward phrase, and breaks it down to create a word from parts of it. (or that it comes from some old and never referenced letter where someone discovered if you take the first letter of a description it spells farb).

Until someone can come up with better proof that the word does not derive from the German word for color, this is the answer to that question.

You dont like it?  Well, do your research, and show us your evidence.

Oh, and the Hastings event? It was at the University of Baltimore. In Maryland. Where Jonah says the word started. Coincidence?  Maybe, but it does wrap things up nicely.



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