Green’s Dictionary of Slang

chaff v.

[SE chafe, to rub]

1. to banter, to tease, usu. gently; thus chaff down a peeler, to tease a policeman.

Downfall of Charing-Cross Percy Ballads (1857) II 345: At the end of the Strand they make a stand, Swearing they are at a loss, And chaffing say that’s not the way, They must go by Charing-Cross .
[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy III 33: And Chaffing say, that’s not the way.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 217: Both these fair ones [...] are chaffing at ‘Fat Bet’.
[UK] ‘Coalheaver’s Feast’ in Fun Alive O! 58: Laughing and joking / Chaffing and smoking.
[UK] ‘Queen’s Marriage’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 324: So John Bull he may laugh, / And the Radicals chaff.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 23 June 3/3: The complainant was in the constant habit of ‘chaff¡ng,’ (or ‘abusing’ as it ought more properly to be termed), the defendant.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 12 May 119: I [...] chaffed him about his being out with two females in a cab, and told him he would get into trouble about it.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 116: His own rooms were [...] removed from the possibility of his friends, when he had sported his oak, being able to get through his window and ‘chaff’ him.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 35/2: Though he’s only twelve years old he’ll chaff down a peeler so uncommon severe.
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 261: Just to chaff him a bit / She said, ‘You old shit, / I can buy a dildo for a sovereign’.
T. Taylor New Men & Old Acres 8: Lil.: I only talked with him for sport, and chaffed him frightfully .
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 275: He had often been oppressed by the notion that the Reverend Mr. North ‘chaffed’ him.
[UK]G.A. Sala in Living London (1883) Oct. 458: The gallery, at first disposed to be somewhat derisive, speedily toned down, and those who came to ‘chaff’ remained to applaud.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 June 18/1: Society chaffs Queen Victoria thus:- ‘Like most elderly ladies, Her Majesty revels in three things – viz., a birth […], a marriage […], and a funeral, for which she has a melancholy weakness […].’.
[UK]G. Moore Esther Waters 10: They’ll chaff dreadful, and call you Creeping J—.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 22 Dec. 187: Do you remember how we use to chaff you about it at Eton in the old days?
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 Jan. 4/7: It’s [i.e. flirting] a pleasant break in the business and I only just chaff them.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 6 Apr. 7/5: Some of his pals chaffed him at being caught by the old tart whom Eddart had cast off.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Counterparts’ Dubliners (1956) 92: Farrington’s heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed.
[UK]Union Jack 5 May 17: ‘But why don’t you come on and collar us?’ chaffed Lord Tinribs.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 258: ‘It’s the Orange trainin’ she got from the family, Father John,’ sez I, chaffin’ him a bit.
[UK]D. Lawley Hustling Hobo 77: The boys smiled and chaffed, but none dare to refer to the lady known as Pie Face.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 211: He went to his men at last and spent some minutes with them, drank a glass and chaffed them for their foolery with their lubras.
[UK]S. Jackson An Indiscreet Guide to Soho 99: A lanky young fellow [...] grins good-humouredly when chaffed about the gingerish beard he is growing.
[UK]Willans & Searle Complete Molesworth (1985) 299: You catch the old works bus and clock-in, put on your overalls, chaff the gurls.
[Ire]F. O’Connor An Only Child (1970) 60: Kathleen and Nan chaffed her about her young man.
[Aus](con. 1944) L. Glassop Rats in New Guinea 166: I am not here to be laughed at, chaffed at and otherwise buggered about by the peasantry.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 363: Don’t the others ever chaff you?

2. to betray secrets, to gossip.

[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 118: I should not be supported by any genteel folks, if I was to chaff out of doors about my visitors.

3. (S.Afr.) to give someone something.

[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 104: He would ‘chaff them a shot’, and be with them.

4. (S.Afr., also charf) to say something.

[UK]J. Taylor ‘Mommy, I’d Like to Be’ [lyrics] Sussie I chaff I’ll win, / Win my bet to make you grin. / With a blade of grass I’ll tickle your chin, / Sussie I chaff I’ll win [DSAE].
[SA]R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart (1991) 71: You had to charf (say), ‘Level with the gravel, ek sê’.

5. (S.Afr.) to tell (someone something).

[SA] informant in DSAE.
[SA]S.A. Botha in Frontline Apr.–May 24: ‘I tjaaf you, the peckies are getting white these days,’ said Don [DSAE].
[SA] informant in DSAE.

6. (S.Afr.) to flirt, to approach sexually, to ‘get fresh’.

[SA]P. Slabolepszy Sat. Night at the Palace (1985) 27: vince: Should have swallowed my pride and gone home with that chick. forsie: So, why didn’t you? vince: Fear of rape. Didn’t want to risk it. forsie: Please! You just couldn’t chaff her, that’s all.

7. (S.Afr.) to ask (someone something).

[SA]Sun. Times (Jo’burg) 25 June 19: When the Adj went to chaff the 2 IB about next week’s rock festival he got a storing [DSAE].