Word of the day: rifty

A strange word of the day today, in that I'm not sure who uses it, what it means or where it comes from. This copy was submitted to the subs' desk earlier this year by an English journalist based in the States:

It’s mid-morning on a bleak January Sunday in Detroit, Michigan, a city much favoured by producers of disaster films because they don’t need to spend much on dressing the set. It’s a rifty old place, boasting an ambient temperature somewhere south of very freezing

The context seems to suggest that rifty means 'cold', but I haven't come across it elsewhere before or since. My Concise OED and Google aren't much help either. Anyone out there use 'rifty' at all? Or did our writer just make a typo?

Detroit in winter is, apparently, rifty


Anonymous said...

My immediate thoughts turned to 'thrifty', maybe relating to it being prosperous? But seems the opposite of it being a 'disaster film set' as this would surely be run down and trashed.....hmmmm

Gloom Raider said...

Possibly something along the lines of "drafty"? As in having air coming in through rifts in the edifice?

Just a thought.

Tim Stewart said...

Big OED (2nd ed., 1989) defines it in terms of cracks, not cold.

rifty, a.

[f. RIFT n.2]

Having rifts, full of rifts or chinks.

1637 RUTHERFORD Lett. (1862) I. cxx. 299 Nothing but glory will make tight and fast our leaking and rifty vessels.
1796 KIRWAN Elem. Min. (ed. 2) I. 110 These are rifty, and present numerous distinct concretions.
1811 PINKERTON Petral. II. 250 [It] may become rifty, and thus split by the weather.

TootsNYC said...

I had the same thought as Gloom Raider--"drafty"

Some typo, or a "grapho" (they dried to write "drafty," and their handwriting was screwy and misleading?

Tim Stewart said...

Maybe rifty is some new portmanteau of drafty, rusty, and rickety with a bit of grifter thrown in for good measure. That might fit the seedier sides of Detroit.

The word certainly sounds apt, whatever it might mean. Onomatopoeia in action?

JD (The Engine Room) said...

Yes, it's almost a Jabberwocky word: "Twas brillig, and the rifty toves"...

Tim, I really need to upgrade from the Concise!

Anonymous said...

Living in the Detroit area, I'd vote for "rifty" meaning broken, split, cracked, chinked or fissured. It would be far more appropriate than cold or drafty as a description of the city. Detroit is a city with more than its share of broken windows, buildings, homes, and old run-down or abandoned factories and plants---along with much that is good. Rifty might even be extended to describe how the city has become fractured or split over the years in its demographics.

Editrix said...

My first thought was that the author meant to say "nifty." However, I do like the suggestion that "rifty" means "full of rifts or chinks" or "broken, split, cracked, chinked or fissured."