A crossword clue in the Times 2 Jumbo Crossword Book—an assemblage of crosswords published in the Times—reads "use obscene language". The answer given is "eff and blind", confirmed by the entry in the Collins English Dictionary which is used as the authority for the crossword.

I'm a native (Australian) English speaker but the answer doesn't make any sense to me. An Australian driver might shout "Are you effing blind?" when another driver cuts across their path, but how is "eff and blind" actually used? The dictionary entry implies that the phrase is somehow the infinitive form of a verb ... but how is it used?

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    Notably (related to a US crossword) I'm an American and have never heard the phrase before now. So it's not just because you're from Australia
    – Stephen R
    Aug 13, 2020 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


You might say something like "Then he burst into the house, effing and blinding." As the dictionary suggests, it is a verb (or a verb phrase). It refers to swearing in general, without actually saying what words were said. "Effing" is from "fuck" (i.e. "the eff word"), whereas "blinding" is from swear words such as "cor blimey" (i.e. "God blind me"), but the actual swear words used could be anything. The general idea is that someone is using a lot of swear words - consider it similar to someone "cursing/swearing a blue streak".

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    Gorblimey is indeed related to literal blindness in the sense that it's a corruption of "[May] God blind me", used as an expletive centuries ago. Aug 13, 2020 at 14:05
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    @chasly - you can write 'fuck' on here. A recent variant of 'effing and blinding' is 'effing and jeffing'. Aug 13, 2020 at 20:00
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    When you write F-word, do you mean fuck? If so, why do you obfuscate it? Aug 13, 2020 at 23:20
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    @RandyL As the Collins dictionary notes, it is a British English expression, not Australian or American.
    – OrangeDog
    Aug 13, 2020 at 23:22
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    @TannerSwett It might not be "common" in the UK simply because most Brits don't go around swearing for no reason. On the other hand the meaning is widely known. It usually implies that somebody is angry and out of control, not just that they are swearing.
    – alephzero
    Aug 14, 2020 at 1:21

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