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Bunbury +‎ -ing, coined by Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) after Bunbury, the fictitious disabled friend of the character Algernon whose supposed illness is used as an excuse to avoid social engagements.


Bunburying (uncountable)

  1. (humorous) Avoiding one's duties and responsibilities by claiming to have appointments to see a fictitious person.
    • 1895, Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest [] , [Act I]:
      Besides, now that I know you to be a confirmed Bunburyist I naturally want to talk to you about Bunburying. I want to tell you the rules.
    • 1991, Helen A. Garten, Why Bank Regulation Failed: Designing a Bank Regulatory Strategy for the 1990s:
      This financial "Bunburying" solves the problem of how to let banking organizations make high yield investments in order to improve overall earnings without risking the kind of public opposition, and loss of public confidence in banks, that took place in the 1930s [...]
    • 1994, Susan B. Kelly, Time of Hope:
      Alison frequently went Bunburying in London although she called it Networking. As far as Nick could make out it consisted of having long, boozy lunches with other businesswomen.
    • 1995, James Hatch, Sorrow Is the Only Faithful One:
      James and Louise Forsyth owned a country house "older than Shakespeare's" in Haywards Heath, Sussex; there Owen spent three days stroking the pet sheep and admiring the view, Bunburying at its best.

Related terms[edit]