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In 1992, when I was involved in the development and teaching of Design-For-Test (DFT) techniques for electronic devices and products, I was invited to prepare and present a paper on the future of DFT at the IEEE International Test Conference (ITC) in Baltimore, USA.  ITC was the leading international conference on electronics test subjects and my paper was planned for the opening plenary session.  I accepted the invitation but then realised the enormity of my task.  I would be talking to my peers and contemporaries, all waiting to hear my opinions and predictions on electronics test and DFT technologies.  I knew there could be as many as 2,000 people in the conference hall (there was) and as the hour approached, I became apprehensive.  Although I was a seasoned presenter, relaxed, able to inject humour when required, and on top of my subject, I was still nervous.  I had never in my life spoken to such a large group—maybe 200 people but not 2,000—and my stomach was performing unbelievable somersaults.  You can read about what happened in my 2013 book, “On One Occasion…” Ivory Tower and Road Warrior Stories”.

In my presentation, I discussed the history, techniques, benefits and future of DFT. I also described common objections to DFT and gave convincing rebuttals to each.   “The problem is,” I concluded, “we do not have a measurable parameter that expresses the incremental gain in product quality arising from the addition of some specific DFT technique, compared to its cost of implementation.  Let me invent one and call it the quality improvement factor (quif), defined as the ratio of DFT benefits versus DFT costs.”

The idea of the quif was well received by the conference attendees and was subsequently picked up by the technical press but before I used the acronym, I thought it prudent to check if quif had any other meanings.  I knew of the word quiff, meaning a tuft of hair brushed upwards and backwards (as popularised by Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, David Beckham and, of course, the cartoon character Tintin) but what about quif with one eff, not two?


At the time, I did not have the benefit of Google to answer such questions but I did spend time in a local library, browsing dictionaries, and I discovered that the hairstyle word, quiff (two effs), had also been used in the past to mean a woman of ill repute, a prostitute, a whore.  I could find nothing on quif (one eff) so I was on safe ground.  These days, quif is not an acceptable Scrabble word nor can I find it in any online dictionary but Dictionary.com still lists quiff (two effs) as a slang noun meaning a woman, especially one who is promiscuous.

Now to the point of this blog.  I have just finished watching a Netflix series called Godless.  Briefly, Godless is set in the 1880s American West and tells the story of Frank Griffin, an outlaw, who hunts down Roy Goode, his ex-partner turned good guy. Frank’s chase ultimately leads him to La Belle, New Mexico, a mining town that had previously experienced a major explosion in the mine that killed all the miners and left the town mostly populated by women: ex-wives, ex-girlfriends, and ex-whores (one of whom becomes a school teacher!)  During the final episode, a confrontation occurs between a lady rancher and a group of now gun-toting women seeking to defend their town from Griffin and his gang.  During the verbal exchange that takes place, the leader of the female group of defenders is somewhat scornful of a comment made by one of the other women in the group, an ex-whore but not the school teacher, and refers to her as “a dumb quiff”.  This is what I heard and this is how the subtitler wrote up the word.  Two thoughts occurred to me as I heard this exchange: this is the first time I’ve seen or heard the word used in its correct old-fashioned sense—to describe a woman of ill repute—and whoever wrote the subtitles, and probably the original script, spelt the word correctly with two effs, not one.

Godless, Season 1, Episode 7

Well done, Netflix.  My quif is still safe and unsullied even though it hasn’t made it into any online dictionary yet.