trifle

Other organizations have cake sales or bake sales or similar events. At the Order of Logogustation we’re just a little more paronomastic in our purveyance for mastication. This fact was gradually dawning on one of the visitors to our little sale, who was finding at every table nothing but variations on the same theme: a layered dessert, with a base of sponge cake or Swiss rolls soaking in peach juice and sherry, fruit and fruit-flavoured jelly next, then custard, and whipped cream on top.

“Lovely desserts,” said the gentleman, finishing his fourth bowl, “but it’s a bit odd that it’s all versions of the same dessert.”

“A bit odd?” said Maury. “A trifle bizarre, I’d say.”

He pointed at the sign hanging at the back of the room, which read A Trifle Bazaar.

The gentleman arched his left eyebrow, then peered at it again over his glasses, presumably so that he would not have to see it in focus. He made a sally of his own. “You’re trifling with me.”

Philippe, at an adjoining table, leaned forward and said, “Would you like to try fol another one? Mine is marked with a trefoil.” He displayed a three-ring shape.

“That could be trouble,” the gentleman said.

“Foiled again,” Philippe replied.

“At least you didn’t make it with truffles,” Maury noted.

Philippe was unruffled. “I was going to use the chocolate kind, not the fungus.”

Jess joined in from the other side. “Deviation is not brooked. No trufflemakers here. Trifles are very tribal.”

“So,” the gentleman said, “are you getting much traffic?”

“There may be later, when we have the raffle,” Jess said. “Then there may be a kerfuffle.”

“There was one last year,” Maury said, “because there was a mix-up. The winner took home not a trifle but a lifter.”

“Went home,” Jess said, “had some t, and came back with a rifle.”

Philippe rejoined. “I thought it was a filter that was won.”

“You don’t seem to have much in the way of filters around here,” the gentleman observed. “The language is open to an e flirt.”

Everyone paused and looked at him. They were all thinking that the Order of Logogustation could suit him to a t – he could become a lifer.

“But surely you are not saying,” he continued, “that truffle, trefoil, et cetera are all related to trifle.”

“Naturally not,” Philippe said. “We just jest.”

Maury explained. “Trifle comes from trufa, Spanish, ‘jest, leer’, or truffa, Italian, ‘cheat, con’. Now, however, although it is on the books as meaning ‘an insignificant thing’, the great majority of its use is as an indefinite quantifier. Like a bit, only fancier.”

“Well,” said the gentleman, stepping over to Philippe’s table, “that seems fitting enough, as I fancy a bit more.”

Thanks to Marie-Lynn Hammond for suggesting trifle and passing on the idea for the opening joke.

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