The term waffle, particularly outside the U.S., denotes language without meaning; blathering, babbling, droning. One might waffle throughout an essay or a presentation, when not having enough material, or needing to fill in time. Etymologists say the term was derived from waff, a 17th-century onomatopoeia for the sound a barking dog makes, similar to the modern woof. Although the relationship between a dog's bark and indecisiveness is unclear, the inference is that waffle words have about as much meaning as the noise made by a dog barking.
Waffling can also be used as a derogatory term; to describe, for instance, a candidate or politician who is considered to easily switch sides on issues to curry political favor (i.e. "flip-flop"), as an easily flipped breakfast food with the same name. A waffle was famously used to represent President Bill Clinton in the Doonesbury comic strip.
The term "to waffle" denotes indecision about particular subjects; "waffling" can also mean changing one's mind frequently on a topic. Example: "Craig always waffles when he's speaking to Genevieve on the telephone". To which Genevieve usually replies "Come on Craig, come out with it!".
A person can begin to waffle after they have experienced a long-term speech impediment such as stuttering; when the speaker has overcome their speech impediment, the fact that they are unaccustomed to being able to speak freely may cause them to waffle.
Waffling is also a method of hazing a poorly performing team in the game of hockey. This occurs when fans of the losing team throw waffles onto the ice (usually not purchasable within the stadium), implying the team has 'waffled' through the game with little effort or offensive strategies. The Toronto Maple Leafs are noted as the team which started this bizarre cultural phenomenon.
- Safire, William: "The waffling of the wishy-washy". The New York Times, 2004.
- Raum, Tom: "The waffle: White House no longer amused by cartoon". Associated Press, 1994.
- Mirtle, James: "Leafs respond to waffle-throwing at the ACC". The Globe and Mail, 2010.