The Corner

Law & the Courts

Boof Sleuthing

If we’re going to make it a federal case — literally — whether the above word was a fart joke or a crude sexual reference in Brett Kavanaugh’s high-school yearbook, it’s worth pointing out a few things:

  • Yes, it’s true that “boof” (and “bufu,” from which it was apparently derived) were sometimes used to refer to a sex act during the 1980s. Don’t click those links at work, as they trace the etymology back further than “bufu.”
  • A classmate of Kavanaugh’s who provided a highly critical statement about the judge’s high-school antics to The New Yorker nonetheless writes that the only sense of “boofing” he was aware of back then was a third one — smuggling drugs in an uncomfortable place. (He also confirms that “FFFFFF” is likely an inside joke, not a sexual reference, and writes that he wasn’t familiar with “Devil’s Triangle.”)
  • In a little-noticed tweet about a week ago, an LA Times writer said this:

He added that he doesn’t “recall any others.”

We may never know for sure exactly what Kavanaugh meant when he submitted that word, but the evidence is far too weak to support the rampant allegations of “perjury!”

Update: My colleague Jack Crowe reached out to Mr. Wilber, who provided some interesting additional details via email:

Boofing was one way to describe farting when I was at Prep. A friend also remembered this being the case. He vividly recalled another student asking him if he had “boofed” in class. He was confused bc at his previous school boofing had been a reference to a sexual act. We shared a laugh about this.

I know from graduates of the early 1980s that they referred to farting as boofing, but a couple told me it might be vomiting (a combo of booting and barfing). Not sure what to make of that.

When I originally tweeted that on Sept. 29 [sic], I had no idea it would become a big deal or picked over (not my tweet, the slang). It was just surprising that Prep slang had entered the lexicon.

A friend from college emailed me after he saw my tweet to say that boofing at his high school in Minnesota in the early 1990s was a sex act. So it must have meant different things to different people in different places.

Graduates of the early 1980s also told me Devil’s Triangle was a drinking game. It involved three cups of beer and bouncing quarters into them. Prep students played a lot of quarters. A bunch of ’83 [grads] mention Devil’s Triangle on their yearbook pages, and I find it hard to believe that students at an all boys high school of that era would be referring to the sex act as defined by urban dictionary. Too much stigma.


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