21

We have a little dispute about this in our team at work.

Rolf is a German male name. But someone said, he saw online, that "to rolf" is a verb in American Slang, which means "to vomit".

And indeed on dict.cc there is an entry in the dictionary saying that.

But in virtually every other source I tracked down, there is no mention of this.

I found three different meanings:

  1. Male Name
  2. Rolling on laughing floor (?)
  3. using a special massaging technique (Rolfing)

So, my question is, is there a possible meaning in any kind of English for "to rolf" that equals "to vomit" or something similar?

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  • 10
    2) is "ROFL", not "rolf" - "Rolling On the Floor Laughing", though it may be misspelled as "ROLF". Jan 30, 2018 at 13:11
  • 16
    Yep, "rolf" (or "ralph") is an old US youth term for "vomit". Been around since the 60s, at least.
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 30, 2018 at 13:35
  • 18
    I don't know the phonetic symbols, but I've always heard "Ralph" with the "A" sound, not "Rolf" with the "O" sound to mean vomit Jan 30, 2018 at 16:04
  • 2
    using "rolf" to mean "vomit" is the same kind of onomatopoeia as "den Jörg rufen" in German.
    – dlatikay
    Jan 30, 2018 at 17:14
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    I've only ever heard of "rolf" as a verb within the context of the deep tissue massage: see rolfing.
    – Robusto
    Jan 30, 2018 at 21:59

4 Answers 4

38

Being from Norway, I instantly recognized what the title was referring to.

Norway also has the male name Rolf, and the slang phrase "rope på Rolf" ("to call for Rolf") means "to vomit". It refers to the pronunciation of "Rolf" being somewhat similar to the sound you make when you vomit

From 1825 to 1920 about 800 000 Norwegians emigrated to America. (Norwegian Wikipedia article). I would not be surprised if they brought slang with them, although I can not find any sources for when the slang appeared in the Norwegian language

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    A similar thing happens in Portuguese: "to call for Gregório" («chamar o Gregório») - because for us the name Greg is onomatopoeic for throwing up.
    – ANeves
    Jan 30, 2018 at 17:11
  • 1
    @ANeves That sounds (literally) like another Norwegian slang phrase for vomiting: "Rope på elgen" ("call for the moose"). The word "elg" ("moose") not being very far from "Greg" in pronounciation
    – Suppen
    Jan 30, 2018 at 17:16
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    In Spanish, we have "llamar a Hugo" (to call for Hugo) because if one exaggerates the "go" syllable, it resembles the onomatopoeia for throwing up. Jan 30, 2018 at 21:06
  • 6
    And now I find Dutch strangely lacking.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 31, 2018 at 7:55
  • 1
    In German there's "Jörg anrufen" for the same thing, meaning to call Jörg.
    – SBI
    Feb 1, 2018 at 9:28
41

I didn't know of it, but there seems to be a slang expression to ralph, meaning "to vomit," according to this buzzfeed post:

  1. Ralph
    Sorry everyone named Ralph, but you have to admit there’s almost an onomatopoeia to this one. It also kind of seems like something a guy named Ralph would say.
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    You could make it a bit more explicit that "to Ralph" means "to vomit", but I think this is the most likely explanation. Jan 30, 2018 at 13:11
  • Yes, ralph, spew, hurl... Jan 30, 2018 at 17:16
  • 9
    Also, originally from Australian slang, but borrowed when I was a teenager in the 80s: "to talk to Huey and Ralph on the great white telephone" is why vomit is also referred to as "huey" or "hughie" in the UK. Again an onomatopoeia from the sounds made while vomiting into a toilet. Jan 30, 2018 at 17:25
  • 2
    Growing up in the 70's I'd often heard the expression "calling ralph in his buick from the porcelain bus", two of the three euphemisms show up on the buzzfeed post.
    – Octopus
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:07
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    Worth mentioning that while I think ralph is fairly commonly understood in this context, I have never once seen rolf, and finding a reference to it seems to be fairly difficult
    – bendl
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:44
9

Try an alternate spelling, replace the "o" with "a".
And/or replace the "f" with "ph" (same English sound).
I believe the name "Rolf" is commonly Anglicized into "Ralph"

Urban Dictionary (https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ralfing) says ralfing is
  "The sound created by somebody noisily vomiting due to excess alcohol consumption"

I've heard this expression for decades in reference to "loud vomiting" (not limited to alcohol vomiting as stated above).

HTH

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    Well, in regards to young men there is one particular well known cause of loud vomiting. Once had the (mis-)pleasure to see an 8 foot projectile ralph into a garbage pail without a drop on the floor. Feb 1, 2018 at 7:21
  • 1
    True, however, I heard this long before without the context of drinking. While ralf may be commonly associated with drinking, that isn't always the connotation; there are other causes in "young men" such as eating contests (which may be just as silly/dumb). Feb 2, 2018 at 15:24
0

There’s a modern disambiguation, now. “Rolf” is a verb, from the bodywork practice “Rolfing” named after the founder Ida Rolf.

Similar to how Chiropractic work focuses on bone alignment and joints, Rolfing focuses on the fascia, the layers of material holding muscles, tendons, and organs to the frame of the body.

The correct English slang you’re looking for is “Ralph”, as stated above.

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  • 1
    A link, in the answer, confirming this meaning and usage would be great! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Feb 1, 2018 at 18:58

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