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Verb: rifle or riffle?[edit]

I added a mention of a blog that discusses a longstanding issue regarding whether "rifling through papers" is really appropriate. [1]. However, I'm not entirely satisfied even with that discussion, so I'll add my two cents.

From my perspective (eastern U.S.), this use of "rifle" as a verb still seems very loosely tied to the noun. The prototype image that comes to mind is of a group of armed men literally tearing through burlap sacks with bayonets on the end of their rifles, but also smashing through drawers while holding weapons. The distinction is that the search is not merely quick or hurried, but it is conducted by someone who is afraid enough to be holding a weapon and still paying attention to possible avenues of attack while the search is conducted. I should add that this doesn't have to be a thief looking for things to steal - the usage seems just as well suited to police, military, or spies ransacking an area, provided that they are doing so under some threat of attack or discovery.

The use can fairly be extended metaphorically to an unarmed person conducting a hasty search under fear of discovery, but when it goes beyond this to "rifling through papers", this seems more like a humorous exaggeration. To me this carries some connotation that the person is unfamiliar with his own files to the degree that he has to hunt through them like a thief.

Wnt 00:02, 17 April 2009 (UTC)