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BFE is an abbreviation for "Bum Fuck Egypt" or "Butt Fuck Egypt," which is used to denote "out in the middle of nowhere."

I'm curious how this expression came about. UrbanDictionary.com has a user-submitted definition with the following etymology:

As I understand (and other people have corroborated), it derives its existence from another expression “bumble fuck” (I am unsure if it's one word or two), both of which mean "out in the middle of nowhere." I am fairly certain that the inaccurate “butt fuck Egypt” derived from bum being the English term for buttocks. Clearly the definition of BFE is the same regardless of what one believes the “B” stands for, but I thought is was worth correcting.

I have no idea how accurate or reliable the above etymology is. There is no entry on EtymOnline.com.

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A related destination, at least in my mind, was always East Jesus, which I first encountered mid 90s. –  Sam Nov 18 '12 at 22:44

5 Answers 5

There was a time when one would have simply said "Podunk" to mean "the middle of nowhere". Some time after Deliverance, and, not coincidentally, during a time when vulgarity began to be a more regular feature of comic acts, the exact geometric centre of nowhere became a fictional hamlet called Buttfuck, <insert poor or "backward" Southern State> (often Tennessee or Arkansas).

Lately, though, and especially in light of the Gulf Wars and 9/11, the Islamic world has become the target of choice for pejoratives. Buttfuck was moved from the territory of the hill folk to somewhere a little less offensive to people living south of the Mason-Dixon line. The cultural origin of the original fictional town (the famous "squeal like a pig" scene) was lost, but the idea of backward sodomites in a foreign world survived the translation.

As for the abbreviation, well, that's something that tends to happen quickly in the world of SMS and tweets. If something occurs frequently and requires more than a couple of characters, somebody is going to abbreviate it.

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7  
Your analysis makes sense, but I remember this term being popular when I was in high school, which was in the mid-90s - long before text messaging and pre-dating 9/11 and Gulf War II. –  Scott Mitchell Feb 20 '11 at 0:08
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I was in the military during Gulf War I -- trust me, the hate and propaganda was thick in the air, and it wasn't all about Iraq. –  bye Feb 20 '11 at 0:14
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@bye: Um, so? Just because there was anti-Arab sentiment then doesn't mean that that's when the phrase originated. –  wfaulk Aug 17 '11 at 14:39

I don't have an better explanation than Stan for the "butt-fuck" part (I'd always heard it as "bum-fuck", which made me think it was originally British) but it certainly ante-dates the First Gulf War.

Wikipedia suggests that "Egypt" was originally a Chicago-area expression referring to the southern third of Illinois, especially the towns of Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.

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I know for certain we used "BFE" when I was back in high school too prior to 1989 and therefore, well before even the first Gulf War. Interestingly enough, some time later, when I moved Hyde Park, NY., which is just north on the Hudson above Poughkeepsie, NY., I had the local expression "up in Poughkeepsie" explained to me. It was immediately likened to what they called the "midwestern" expression "BFE". Basically, if one was hopelessly lost, it was said they were "up in Poughkeepsie."

Poughkeepsie is and has always been the last stop on the New York City Metro Train Line. Historically, as it was explained, New York City mobsters, criminals, etc. looking to get "lost" would take the metro line's anonymous ticket ride up to Poughkeepsie, disperse into the countryside, and hide out from the law. This notion of this tradition is apparently still popular today, as it was duplicated, more or less, in a later episode of the Sopranos.

As previously suggested, the vulgarity and the proximity to Chicago of Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak, Illinois would lend some creedence to the Wikipedia suggestion that the "BFE" expression might have similarly arose among mobsters, criminals, or anyone looking to "hide out" outside the Chicago area. It seems very logical to think that if a mobster, etc. said "so and so is hiding out in BFE", they were speaking in code about taking the train to St. Louis and hiding out across the river in southern Illinois. Something else that lends some creedence to this suggestion is that if one proceeds to the very tip of southern Illinois and ultimately crosses the Ohio River, one would end up in Paducah (Podunk), Kentucky. Paducah is 373 miles from Chicago, 140 miles from St. Louis, MO, 140 miles from Memphis, TN and 120 miles from Nashville, TN and thus would truly have been, in the 1920s and 30s, in the middle of nowhere.

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I second that, I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and I remember first hearing "BFE" to describe the Boonies in the very early 80's –  user30992 Nov 16 '12 at 15:32
    
@Tas I guessed which answer you were commenting on. I can move it to a different one if I guessed wrong. Just ping me. –  KitFox Nov 16 '12 at 15:56
    
@KitFox: Normally, comments-as-answers were meant for the lowest voted answer, as the "Your answer" box usually appears immediately below it. So, before my new answer, it would have been this. –  Hugo Nov 16 '12 at 23:50

When I was working in the oil patch in Wyoming in the early 1970's we used the term BFE to refer to any remote location we had to go to work. Example: "Where did you go today? We were in Bum Fuck Egypt (BFE) and got lost out there looking for Amoco's well head #21." It just seemed like maybe Egypt had some pretty big expanses of remote desert, and there were definitely a lot of those remote desert type regions we all had to cross to find some remote oil field location.

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Summary

Bumfuck, Egypt is first documented in army slang from 1972, and BFE is from at least 1988. Bumfuck, [Egypt] appears to be the original, followed by variations Bumblefuck (1989), Bubblefuck (1993) and Buttfuck (1999).

Sometimes these variations appear standing alone, sometimes in Egypt, or Africa (also found in BFA), or another country, (rural) state or place, and sometimes prefixed by East or West. More recently, both BFN and Butt Fucking Nowhere are reported from 2002.

As Bumfuck, Egypt appears to be originally military slang, given the number of abbreviations they used I can easily believe it was also jocularly and euphemistically shortened to BFA before 1988.


Partridge

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Uncoventional English (2003):

BFE noun any remote location. An abbreviation of BUMFUCK, EGYPT US 1989

Bumblefuck noun any remote, small town US 1989

Bumfuck, Egypt noun a mythical town that is the epitome of remoteness. With variants US 1972

It also gives BFN and Butt Fucking Nowhere, both from 2002.


OUP

These 1989 and 1972 first citations are given with others in The F-Word (2009, Oxford University Press):

BFE noun [Bumfuck (or Bumbfuck), Egypt]

Military & Students. a very remote place; the middle of nowhere.

1989 P. Munro U.C.L.A. Slang 20: Troy...lives out in B.F.E....Bum Fuck, Egypt.

Bumfuck noun

Military & Students. a very remote place. --used with a placename, esp. in Bumfuck, Egypt. Also Bumfuckistan. Jocular. See also BFE, BUMBLEFUCK.

1972 Sgt. E-6, U.S. Army: They probably sent those records out to Bumfuck, Egypt.

It also gives Bumblefuck as a 1989 alteration of Bumfuck; Bubblefuck as a 1993 alteration of Bumblefuck; and Buttfuck, usually used with a placename, from 1999.


Usenet

I found an earlier example for the initials BFE in Usenet, on 11th September 1988 in alt.cyberpunk:

$600 is about what we paid for my first computer -- a C64, 1541 and printer; when I was a upper-lower class kid living in the backwoods of BFE, Leesville, Louisiana. (Ft. Polk sux too. :-). We weren't on welfare, but we weren't rich either. I think we saved about 9-12months for the computer. (Grandparents bought me a monitor a month later. What a rescue. :-). That computer made the difference between me being a dual major CompSci/Journalism student in Houston instead of being like my cousins: 2-4 kids, HS diploma at best, slow paying job, no future, and living in BFE, Louisiana.

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protected by Will Hunting Nov 16 '12 at 16:43

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