Information & Library Science
- noun unwanted or uninteresting printed material, especially official forms and documents
- noun written instructions, briefings, reports, etc.
- noun information on paper; forms, instructions, brochures, etc., especially those considered unnecessary, annoying or in excessive quantity. This term is now an acceptable middle-class colloquialism although its origin is more vulgar. It derives from ‘bum fodder’, a pre-World War II public-school and armed-forces term for toilet paper. This was applied scornfully in wartime to excessive bureaucratic paperwork. In Australia the usage is sometimes extended to mean unnecessary or verbose speech. The phrase ‘bum fodder’ in full is now obsolete, but was used from the 17th century to refer to waste paper.
- acronym formnemonic (written as BUMF)
Origin & History of “bumf”
The earliest, literal, but now long discontinued sense of bumf is ‘toilet paper’ (first recorded in 1889), which does much to elucidate its origin: it is short for bum fodder. The element of contempt is carried over into its modern meaning, ‘unwanted or uninteresting printed material’, which dates from around 1930.