What is the origin of furphy?
Furphy, a piece of Australian slang meaning “a false report; rumor,” originated in the early days of World War I and derives from the Furphy carts used to haul water and rubbish for the Australian army. The carts, made of galvanized iron drums mounted on wheels and originally used for hauling water on farms, were invented and manufactured by J. Furphy & Sons in Shepparton, in the state of Victoria. Soldiers gathering around a Furphy cart, like office workers around the water cooler, would hear and spread all the rumors they could absorb, and the drivers of the Furphy carts could then spread rumors among different units. Furphy first appears in print in 1915 in a poem by the English poet Robert Graves entitled On Gallipoli: “To cheer us then a ‘furphy’ passed around… They’re fighting now on Achi Baba’s mound.” Scuttlebutt, “an open cask containing drinking water,” shows a parallel development among American sailors, the scuttlebutt originally being the place where one could get a drink of water, becoming by 1901 “rumor, gossip.”