Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ferfelu (#AtoZChallenge 2015)


Papiamentu borrows not just from Dutch (Papialands, Papiamentu + Nederlands) but from Spanish and English (Papianish? Englamentu?) on a regular basis. With time, some foreign words have become Papiamentized (my term)--incorporated into the language as more than just loans. Their spelling has changed, and, though usage, even their meaning has transformed.

Such is the case with ferfelu.

An 18th-century fort destroyed to make way for this
atrocity? Ferfelu is an understatement.

I think it comes from the Dutch vervelend ([fur-FAIL-end], boring or annoying), but that may be just what passes for common sense inside my head. Another possibility is farfelu, French, which means eccentric, hare-brained, ridiculous, or bizarre.

Problem is, none of these definitions really fit the Papiamentu ferfelu.

These people might be discussing,
or arguing about, something
ferfelu. The argument itself
might become ferfelu, too.
For instance, this video talks about a ferfelu situation being lived at a school in Bonaire last year: due to budget cuts, air conditioning* couldn't be used in classrooms during the first two hours of school. This website, aimed at sexually active teens and young adults, talks about how to prevent ferfelu experiences by making clear to your sex partner what you like--and what you don't.

In English, the closest would be disagreeableUnpleasant. Objectionable. Unpalatable. Not really boring, or annoying.

Borrowing from examples in earlier posts (if you've been following this series):

Your best friend shows up to your coffee date in tears; she just broke up with her boyfriend. You: "Ai no, dushi. Ferfelu!"
(English: I'm so sorry to hear that. That's terrible.)

"How can politicians ever be honest? They're just the mouthpieces for big enterprise."
"Ei ta palu. Ferfelu, si."
(Enlgish: That's exactly the problem. Disgusting, yeah.)

Garbage in the streets is ferfelu. So are people that complain constantly. Or arguments that turn personal. Or loving someone that doesn't love you back. Or witnessing someone being fired. Or having to fire someone. (Or being fired yourself.) Or people talking at the movies--during the movie. Or a drunk at a party. Or...

What do you find ferfelu?

This woman definitely finds something ferfelu.
I suspect it's me & my camera.

~ * ~

* Did you guess air-co (A/C) for erko in yesterday's post? Ei ta palu! And if you were the first to guess correctly in the comments, you've been entered to win a copy of The Miracle of Small Things, a collection of short stories set in Curaçao to be released later this year. Not every day will have a bonus word, but when there is one, if you're the first to leave a comment with the right answer (or, if no one gets it right, the one that comes closest by the time the next day's post is published), you'll be entered into the raffle. The three winners will be announced the first week of May.


  1. Hi Guilie .. Ferfelu has slightly lost me .. sounds like a sort of disparaging comment - could be valid, but equally could be ridiculous, or could be a way of ending a discussion .. cheers Hilary

    1. It's basically "disagreeable", but then used as a commentary (in English we don't go around commenting "Oh, disagreeable", haha). Glad you stopped by :)

  2. Hi Guilie, Very nice article. Think the moment someone becomes so sure that another person can not accomplish something, and it is laced with arrogance. I believe that would fit "Ferfelu" That behavior is annoying to me.

    1. Ugh--I know exactly what you mean. Yep, I agree that's ferfelu. Thanks for the visit, and I'm glad you liked the post :)


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