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Webster's New International Dictionary 1939 traces high falutin to "high flown", meaning pretentious. Webster's New World Dictionary, 2nd College Edition 1986, traces to origin of "high floating" with the extra vowel added to signify even greater pretentiousness. The word is pretty old - it occurs in the song "Ragtime Cowboy Joe" written in 1912.
whosshee 1atineb1 (talk) 01:41, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

There are apparently a few theories about this, none conclusive. As for me, I like the WNW you give. It accounts for the just about every aspect of the expression as we know it. The Online Etymology Dictionary, a very convenient and pretty reliable source, puts the first known use in 1848. I'm going to look into this a bit more. DCDuring TALK 02:34, 20 November 2012 (UTC)
A more convincing version of the Bragg etymology (in the current entry) mentions that the high-flute steamboats were introduced later, were more expensive, and lofted the cinders high enuf that substantially fewer fell onto those on deck (and on the river or shore -- or perhaps other boats! -- instead). The more prosperous wore more expensive clothes, felt more that their status would be damaged by cinder burns on them, and thus found more advantage in, and more means for, "high fluting" journeys.
--Jerzyt 03:22, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Do you know of any uses of high-fluting/high-fluted/etc in reference to the boats or their funnels? One would expect there to be some evidence of the direct use before the purported transferred use. DCDuring TALK 04:57, 30 June 2014 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence that a funnel was called a flute? DCDuring TALK 08:32, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

There is a still current term in British English : High and Fluting - chiefly military in use it usually indicates a pronouncement from someone superior: "The Captain explained in high and fluting tones that I was to follow the regulation and under no circumstances to think for myself"Saxophobia (talk) 18:55, 7 December 2017 (UTC)