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What is a Bun Fight?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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The slang term “bun fight” is used to refer to a formal event which requires people to dress up, whether or not the event features food, let alone buns. You may also hear it used in reference to a large party at which food is served, and a bun fight may also appear in the guise of a petty argument. In any case, the term appears to be British in origin, and it appears on occasion in British novels and newspapers, so it can be handy to know what it means.

The roots of this term are a subject of debate. Some people link it with famous comic author P.G. Wodehouse, while others believe that the term is actually a bit too old for Wodehouse, emerging in the later part of the 19th century, when Wodehouse was still quite young. In any case, this slang term is widely used by authors who try to write in the style of Wodehouse, perhaps in homage, and it also appears in perfectly respectable publications, such as the Times of London.

If you hear the term “bun fight” and you think of people whipping pastries around, this isn't far from the idea. Originally, the term appears to have arisen in reference to formal teas and dinners given by high ranking members of Victorian society, and it was meant to be tongue in cheek, as of course no food would be thrown at these events. Over time, a bun fight, or bunfight, came more generally to mean any kind of formal event, often with an implication of very stiff, formal behavior.

Some institutions hold annual bun fights, serving large amounts of food and encouraging members of the organization to dress up and have a bit of fun. Many organizations with a sense of humor identify these annual events explicitly as bun fights, poking fun at formal British culture, while others use more dignified terms. In the news, formal events of note are sometimes referred to as bunfights by insolent reporters who wish to make light of such events and the people who attend them.

You may also hear someone refer to a petty argument as a bun fight, referencing a fight between nursery school children over food in the school yard or nursery. The slang term is usually used in this sense by outside observers who wish to point out that the argument in question is a bit absurd and overblown.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon105693 — On Aug 22, 2010

easy jet: now that's a bunfight.

By anon84163 — On May 13, 2010

I agree with Vinayk25's comments - term 'Bun Fight' was used by P.G. Wodehouse.

By anon23585 — On Dec 29, 2008

Vinayk25's comments are absolute rubbish

By vinayk25 — On May 19, 2008

Bun Fight is a picnic party game.

A string is attached between two poles and Buns (baked round seasoned bread) are hung at intervals just about the height of the party members.

The participants have their hands tied behind their backs and have to eat the entire bun. To make it more interesting the string is repeatedly shaken and the contestants have a tough time time in trying to eat the bun. The winner is the person who consumes the entire bun on the string without touching it with his hands.

Since the word fight is used and it is a jolly entertaining party game, the term 'Bun Fight' was used by P.G.Wodehouse to denote a harmless entertaining contest.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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