A bit of a furphy

Australian language used to be, and still is to some extent, full of colourful slang.

Phrases such as “Full as a goog” and “Mad as a cut snake” used to puzzle me, when we first moved here. ( The former means having eaten or drunk too much, the latter means crazy, eccentric or overcome with rage.)

Then there is furphy, which indicates an improbable story, or a rumour.

So, how did this meaning come about? Well, J. Furphy and Sons made and supplied water carts to the Australian Imperial Force in Europe and the Middle East (WWI). Soldiers would stand around the water carts, shooting the breeze and spreading rumours and (probably incorrect) news. So, the surname of Furphy came to be associated with unreliable, speculative information.

This is what the Furphy water carts looked like. They were originally made to transport water for domestic use.

Herberton May 2014 167

Mr John Furphy was a pious gentleman, and had these words embossed on the tanks:

“Good, better, best- never let it rest-till your good is better-and your better-best.”

Herberton May 2014 168

His son William added the following in Pitman’s shorthand, in 1920. Roughly translated, it means “Water is the gift of God, but beer and whisky are concoctions of the devil, come and have a drink of water.”

Herberton May 2014 171

J. Furphy and Sons, established in  1864, is still going strong as an engineering and fabrication company,  in Shepparton, Victoria. And, that’s no furphy.






Filed under Australia

25 responses to “A bit of a furphy

  1. Pingback: My Article Read (5-14-2016) (5-15-2016) – Br Andrew's Muses

  2. Pingback: My Article Read (5-14-2016) (5-15-2016) – My Daily Musing

  3. I love museums, especially the small, out-of-the-way ones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’d like this one. It’s a credit to a retired couple who have put so much time, money and effort into it. It’s staffed by very devoted volunteers.


  4. Reblogged this on johnsstorybook and commented:
    I was planning to write a post about Furphys bur Yvonne reminded me that she had already done one. So I’ll post it here and I won’t have had to do any work. Thanks Yvonne.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haven’t seen a Furphy for quite a few years now. Loved reading your post


  6. Andrew

    My grandma had some crackers too. Old people chatting on a bench were ‘ like two crows on a crabtree cronking.’ A miserable person had ‘ a face like a Portobello kite.’ The one we use most, and only our family do use it I think, is ‘being brussoned’ (sp.?, pronounced with a northern English accent). It means movement being constricted by too many layers of clothing.


    • I guess a lot of the colourful phrases that were used in Australia had their origins with the people who arrived (voluntarily or not) from the “Mother Country”.


  7. how cool -great angle – and thanks now I know what a Furphy is!!!


  8. I thought you were going to say the water tanks were leaky! Good thing, for the Furphy’s the saying didn’t stick to their product – and I guess that’s because their water tanks did reliably bring water to the troops. Interesting how the chaps gathered round those water cats to gossip and exchange the latest war myths in much the same way folk nowadays gather around the office coffee pot, or water fountain. 🙂


  9. Not only is your blog entertaining, it is educational too! I think I may have to add a few of those Aussie words to my vocabulary.


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