Final Word

The funky way to entertain, and renew yourself


There comes a time in the life of every individual, and organisation, when some renewal is a good idea, especially if the result could be something more funky.

Here at The Intelligence Bulletin, we felt such a time has arrived when offered an association with a brand-new e-commerce platform, which offers our subscribers, and casual readers, opportunities to renew their own lives, engage in self-development and gain access to unique products and services.

The name of our new associate is Fast & Funky. The proses is in its final stages and we will reveal all next week.But, in the meantime, to be honest, that is where the curiosity, and idea, came from to look at the origin of funky as a possible theme for a Final Word column.

How often does it not happen that we complement someone with an outfit, or maybe an idea, by saying “that’s quite funky!” Or, maybe less approvingly, pose the question: “Is that not too funky?

As it turns out, funky is very much a word that one commentator describes as “truly a word for all seasons.”

For a start, it is possible that the word has it roots in a Latin word fumus (smoke) or in the Ki-Kongo language and its word lu-fuki – or maybe, in both.

The Latin word is reflected in the French dialect verb funkier, to blow smoke on a person or, annoy them with smoke. Lu-fuki, in turn, is used to praise people for the integrity of their art, for having 'worked out' to achieve their aims.

The latter is believed have developed from the original meaning of lu-fuki, bad body odor, due to the sweat caused by hard physical work – and call it hidrosis, if you want to sound clever or smart.

The word funky has also found its way back to Africa, and one source reports:

 “In Kongo today it is possible to hear an elder lauded in this way: 'like, there is a really funky person!--my soul advances toward him to receive his blessing (yati, nkwa lu-fuki! Ve miela miami ikwenda baki)

“Fu-Kiau Bunseki, a leading native authority on Kongo culture, explains: 'Someone who is very old, I go sit with him, in order to feel his lu-fuki, meaning, I would I would like to be blessed by him. 'For in Kongo the smell of a hardworking elder carries luck.’

“This Kongo sign of exertion, is identified with the positive energy of a person. Hence, 'funk' in black American jazz parlance can mean earthiness, a return to fundamentals.”

Same word two origins

It looks quite likely that funky, and/or funk, is one of those rare examples of the same word, developing from two different origins, ending up meaning the same thing, and if different things, it only depends on context.

The website Etymonline explains it thus:

“funky "old, musty," in reference to cheeses, then "repulsive," from funk ["bad smell," 1620s, from dialectal Fr. funkière "smoke." It began to develop an approving sense in jazz slang (c.1900), probably on the notion (from African Americans) of "earthy, strong, deeply felt."

“Funky also was used early 20c. by white writers in reference to body odour allegedly peculiar to blacks. The word reached wider popularity c.1954 ... and in the 1960s acquired a broad slang sense of "fine, stylish, excellent."

In the European context, as from French, “… funky originally meant pungent/earthy, with relatively positive associations to "passive" qualities such as the smell of a cheese, which just sits there mouldering away. Since being co-opted into jazz slang (In the early 1900’s) it's acquired the more "active" overtones of actual movement in the sense of lively, rootsy, etc. (funky music encourages dancing & foot-tapping),” according to one source.

However, according to Etymonline, funk (depending on context) can also mean "depression, ill-humour," perhaps from an earlier sense of "cowering state of fear" (1743).

And, according to the Oxford English Dictionary it was originally Oxford slang, “probably from (the) Scottish and Northern English verb funk, meaning to "become afraid, shrink through fear, fail through panic (1737).”

It is also possible that it derived from the Flemish word ‘fonk,” meaning "perturbation, agitation, distress," which is possibly related to Old French funicle "wild, mad," which might be related to the Old French words funcile or fumigare, meaning ‘to smoke.’

There are no prizes for those who can guess correctly where the term, or the activity we engage in, if we want to get rid of insects in our home, fumigate, comes from.

Final word

However, if you visit the site of our new associate, Fast and Funky, you might just find deals there which, in the one of more common present-day definitions of funky (since the 1950s), ‘things that are satisfying, impressive, or generally approved of.’

For one, Fast and Funky has secured the South African rights to libraries of thousands of audio books, about which we will also report next week. It will offer ways to renew and/or improve yourself and your income potential.


by Piet Coetzer

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