You've might have heard someone say telling furphies or that was a bit of a furphy and wondered what they meant or where the expression came from.
FURPHY | FURPHIES | FURFY
The word furphy is a uniquely Australian idiom, a way of saying that something is an exaggerated story, a false report or a rumour.
The Furphy family has a long history in central Victoria; John Furphy moved from Kyneton to Shepparton in 1873 and that's where the story began. John Furphy set up a smithy in the then-tiny town of Shepparton and, within a few years, he'd become well known as a blacksmith, a wheelwright, and also as an agricultural machinery supplier.
A decade after setting up his business in Shepparton, John Furphy and his long-time employee Uriah 'Cocky' Robinson, came up with the idea of a mobile water tank, and within a few years, Furphy water carts were familiar sights.
The carts had Furphy painted on the sides in vivid, dark red paint which led to 'furphy' becoming a byword for rumour around the time of World War One.
Furphy water tanks were selected to supply water to the Broadmeadows camp just out of Melbourne in 1914, when the troops were embarking to the First World War. These tanks were used for hygienic water supplies at the latrines.
This was one place where the troops could gather and in their anxious state, they were very, very keen to find out what was happening. The officers didn't disseminate much information, so obviously, it was an ideal spot for rumours to become rife. With the tank there, with the large lettering on the side, they associated the rumours with the word 'furphy'.
That went overseas then to Gallipoli in the First World War, and has become a word that's still used today."
At first, it was an exclusively Victorian word - then more and more Australians from other states began to pick it up. The earliest example of 'furphy' in writing was in April, 1915, in a diary entry written by Staff Sergeant John Treloar, when he was camped near Cairo:
"Today's 'furphy', for never a day goes by without at least one being created, was about lights being prohibited in camp on account of the possibility of a German airship raid. Some of the troops do not suffer from lack of imagination."
Diggerspeak: The Language of Australians in War
Dr Laugesen published a dictionary called ‘Diggerspeak: The Language of Australians in War,’ in which she outlines the ‘slanguage’ used by Australians at war.
In her dictionary Dr Laugesen defines furphy as a rumour or false report; an absurd story and states that the word furphy “originated from the name of the firm J. Furphy and Sons who manufactured water carts in Shepperton, Victoria which delivered water.
Troops who gathered around the water carts would swap stories, many of which had no basis in fact, hence the name furphy.
J. Furphy & Sons
J. Furphy & Sons is an Australian engineering icon, established in 1864 and is still family owned (5th generation) operating from its base in Shepparton, Victoria. The company is renowned for its historical links to rural Australia and in particular its most famous product - the Furphy Water Cart.
With over 140 years in the business, J Furphy & Sons is your first choice for reliable manufacture and supply of a range of metal services.