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Origins of the Flurb
[05/10/2004] [Randall]

What is a flurb? That's a common question these days, but the answer isn't so common. To some a flurb is a nerd's nerd; a person so devoid of social ability that they are unaware of their own ineptness. To others it means role-players, artisans, or other non-combatants. There are some people for whom flurb isn't even an insult but a rallying cry against the growing stick-jock nature of Amtgard, a large tent that encompasses anyone who is in the game for more than just swinging foam. However, no matter what you believe, no understanding of the word can be had without knowing where it came from and where it's going.

Any attempt to define a flurb outside the context of Amtgard is doomed to failure because the word doesn't actually exist. Still, it's worth looking at the few uses the word has enjoyed to see how it relates to our game. People in a variety of situations have independently made up the word flurb as a useful nonsense word. As a mixture of flub and fubar, flurb has emerged in isolated pockets of the tech community to describe messing something up. In the media world, a few rare people tried to use the word as well to describe a flubbed blurb - in other words, a failed and embarrassing attempt to be funny. Neither of these cases indicate common use but they are interesting because they both suggest the same idea - someone inept flailing their arms in defeat.

We must look to Amtgard to define flurb, but it's only been the last few years that it has been a part of the national game. The rapid spread of the word can be directly linked to the rise of the internet in Amtgard. There are three major 'net events that changed flurb from a relatively unknown term into a word spoken in every land. In chronological order these were: Darkjester News' story on Omar, e-Knight's use of flurb as a disadvantage, and the success of the e-Samurai forums.

Darkjester News, an irregular comedy newsletter spread by Zodiac Darkjester, in early May of 2001 ran a satire story on flurbiness - the state of being a flurb - in the Duchy of Darkmoon in the Iron Mountains. This article spread around the internet quickly and was responsible for Omar, a citizen of Darkmoon, being the name returned by when flurb was entered in the search line. All parties involved in this satire had strong and vocal internet presences and their discussion and debate over flurbs and flurbiness brought the word into the limelight. The definition of flurb at the time is easy to figure out from the article - it referred to poor-quality posts to internet discussion forums, being a nuisance, and people of dubious worth who don't understand how socially unacceptable their actions are.

Roughly a year later another satire, e-Knight, was launched. In e-Knight players create characters in a simulation of Amtgard and attempt to get knighted. 'Flurb' is one of many traits that can be selected, and gives the character a disadvantage in the game by causing non-player characters to react negatively. Being a flurb in this game will cause your character to role-play, say unintelligent things, fight 'wiffly', and generally act 'flurby', although it doesn't say what flurby means. While the context of the game provided a definition of the word flurb, this was the first time role-playing and flurbiness were linked. Still, even in this context, the role-playing itself was not what made one a flurb; a flurb would 'role-play, or something', strongly suggesting that a failure even to role-play properly is what is truly flurby.

Over the course of the next several months the influx of several Iron Mountaineers to our own Electric Samurai would see the use of the word blossom in the forums. The first use in the forums was by Sir Michael Hammer of God on September 10th, 2002. Just a month later, on October 17th, 2002, there were two articles by Sir Randall and Sir Arthon on the topic of flurbs. Both articles represented flurbs in a positive light and used the word to gently describe the clueless enthusiasm of newbies. More importantly, this period saw a massive growth in the size of the e-Samurai community, meaning many more people were coming into contact with the word. These people then took the word back to their parks, thereby spreading it all over Amtgard.

It was around this time that the debate over Stick Jocks vs. Flurbs arose. This argument would redefine flurb and continues to the present day. With both a large fighting population and a significant influx of new Amtgarders from the east, conflict in the forums saw flurb adopted by anyone who supported the non-fighting aspects of Amtgard as the nom de guerre in the battle against stick-jockism. This evolution is partially because few flurbs, in the original sense, tended to be competent fighters. This would draw them towards other pursuits, which they would do to the exclusion of fighting. The problem wasn't that flurbs role-played; it was that they role-played badly. Still, the fact that role-players were getting mocked by stick-jocks was enough for role-players everywhere to unite behind the term. Flurb has been almost entirely co-opted. It's slowly come to mean anyone who gets excited about something other than fighting. Even Spearweasel's invention of the term 'stick-flurb', meaning a person who liked fighting, role-playing, armoring, and everything, acknowledged flurbiness to be the opposite of fighting.

Thus did flurb come to describe three types of people: newbies who are cluelessly enthusiastic, older members who should know better but don’t, and anyone (newbie to veteran) who is socially clueless. Even more confusing is this -- to those who mean it as an insult, a flurb is someone you’re embarrassed to hang out with, but to those who use it as a source of pride, flurb means someone who gets excited by the non-fighting aspects of Amtgard. This last definition is the source of most confusion regarding what flurb really means.

This tells us how the word became popular and what it means today, but it doesn't tell us where the word came from. For that, we have to go flurb-hunting in the Emerald Hills.

The path to finding the flurb in Dallas is similar to finding him internationally; it all exploded when someone started calling some else a flurb. An infamous newsletter circulated by the Corsairs ignited a firestorm throughout all of 1998 in which the word flurb could be heard in every camp at every event. Like today, there were people who were offended by the ugliness of the slur and tried to end its use. Those people similarly assumed the word had a much broader definition than was intended, and role-players and non-fighters all got lumped together. This brouhaha was not an isolated incident: The word flurb can be traced as far back in the Emerald Hills as 1993 when it provoked yet another blow-up over its use. '93 is the earliest we can prove that flurbs existed; Sir Delphos has no memory of bringing the word from the Burning Lands when he arrived in Dallas.

Despite that, before 1993, the word flurb exists in strange and fuzzy stories from the original park of Amtgard. These stories stretch back to when Sir Aramithris supposedly used the word a lot in ‘91 (although it's been reported that the word of choice to describe the inept at the time was actually 'dweeb'). Going back to '89, supposedly Ghee was called a flurb as well. The best of the stories makes flurb into a verb rather than a noun and tells of how you could, back in the '80s, get 'flurbed' by a girl of loose morals behind a hill in the Burning Lands park. And before that? Nothing.

Flurb was invented by the Emerald Hills to describe a socially inept person. All anecdotal uses before then had similar meanings, suggesting that the word brings forth the same thoughts in our collective consciousness - or that it possibly did exist and leaked, as all things do, from El Paso to the rest of Amtgard. Since then, despite evolving somewhat, the definition remains essentially the same among those who use flurb as an insult, and the word is more popular than ever. Since its adoption by non-flurby people who role-play, it has been stripped of some its original meaning. . . but the flurbs are still out there and they, like the word that still means people you'd be embarrassed to talk to in real life, are here to stay.

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