Word of the Day: Farb

The word of the day comes from Atlas Obscura’s engaging article on Civil War reenactors:

To call someone a farb is to call them inaccurate, with an added layer of moral judgment: a farb’s gear is not just wrong, but wrong, a sin against history. It’s reenactor slang that dates back to the 1960s, the dawn of the modern reenactment era, when the Civil War centennial and the civil rights movement coincided to cause a surge of mainstream interest in a hobby previously dominated by small-scale “town history” celebrations and marksmanship drills. In the same way contemporary comic con attendees snipe about “real” fans versus “fake geeks,” reenactors who devoted a lot of attention to the accuracy of their historical “impressions” complained about those who didn’t—and still do.

 Your quintessential farb might spend all weekend talking on a cell phone, or wear a jumble of mismatched “old timey” costume pieces from different decades. Bright-colored crocheted snoods—decorative female hairnets—are a reliable target of ire; more 1940s than 1860s, they’re nevertheless sold to entry-level reenactors by opportunistic merchants happy to take money from a newcomer looking for a quick “period hairstyle” solution.

Farbs are an inevitable part of any large-scale reenactment, since perspectives on history—and what historical immersion means—are far from uniform. There’s natural tension between hobbyists who want to dress up and fire canons, then sit down for a beer with fellow nerds, and people who want to get as close to time travel as possible—who would rather not see anyone duck behind a tree with a can of insect repellant.

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