Skip to main content

Every family has its pet words or phrases, language that resonates within the household but isn't common enough to have reached the dictionary.

Earlier this year, Lloyd W. Robertson wrote to inquire about a humorous word used by his late father to suggest he had eaten quite enough and couldn't manage another bite.

The word was "suffonsified," as in, "My sufficiency has been suffonsified." It may be a play on intensify or satisfy.

In any case, it has a life beyond the Robertson clan.

For instance, in a 1994 review of Helen Elaine Lee's book The Serpent's Gift, Camille Howard wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle: "Even minor characters are whimsically and carefully drawn. The hilarious malaprops of prosperous undertaker Leverett Winters bring levity to moments of grievous human loss. At the wake for Ontario Smalls, for example, he declines refreshments by declaring his 'sufficiency is quite suffonsified.' "

In a 1999 article in Britain's Daily Telegraph, Fiona Fullerton wrote: "A belated but sincere Happy New Year to you all and I hope, as my uncle used to say, that your 'sufficiency is suffonsified and any more would be a superfluity.' In other words, are you replete? I know I am. I was goosed this year. Turkey doesn't really do it for me, so we goosed instead."

The subject has piqued interest on the Internet. In his electronic newsletter World Wide Words, at , Michael Quinion offers an impressive list of sightings of suffonsified, which he began after receiving a letter from Ruth Gaeta. She remembered the phrase as "my sufficiency is serrancified," suggested it might have come from Virginia and North Carolina, and added: "Three different older friends remember their grandmothers using it."

Paul McFedries, one of Quinion's correspondents, has found a few variations on "suffonsified" on the Net.

They include "my sufficiency is suffancified" and "All of my my sufficiencies have been suffulsified and any further indulgence on my part may well prove to be super sanctimonious."

The "suffancified" spelling has turned up in one of the Sunday colour pages of Lynn Johnston's comic strip For Better or For Worse. The family sits around the dinner table after a hearty meal. Ellie asks her father, "Would you like a little more, Dad?" He replies, "No, thanks, dear. My sufficiency has been suffancified, and more would be superfluous." Ellie's daughter April looks startled by the phrase, but no more is said about it.

Another variation appears in Margaret Atwood's 1988 novel Cat's Eye, in a conversation set in the early 1950s (Elizabeth II has just been crowned) between university student Perdie and her younger sister Cordelia. " 'Are you sufficiently sophonsified?' Perdie asks Cordelia. This is a new thing they've taken to saying. It means have you had enough to eat?"

If anyone knows of other printed sightings of the word, I'd be happy to receive the information.

Where word play is concerned, the appetite is seldom suffonsified.

Report an error

Editorial code of conduct