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.
- 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.