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 They were originally made to transport water for domestic use.
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.”
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.”
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.