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2 definitions by JDiver

 
1.
Literally, French for "greater force" and in older contracts, an "act of God"- an event beyond human control, such as weather, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. In insurance and travel contracts, this is the "weasel phrase" meaning "shit happens", or at greater length, "it's out of our hands, so we don't have to do anything for you" - if your flight is cancelled because of weather, it is considered to be cancelled because of force majeure and in most cases you are SOL for lodging, meals etc. until they can arrange to get you out on another flight, perhaps days later.
From one airline's "Conditions of Carriage":

FORCE MAJEURE EVENTS
American (Airlines) may, in the event of a force majeure event, without notice, cancel, terminate, divert, postpone or delay any flight or the right of carriage or reservation of traffic accommodations without liability except to issue an involuntary refund. The involuntary refund will be made in the original form of payment in accordance with involuntary refund rules for any unused portion of the ticket. American will also reserve the right to determine if any departure or landing should be made without any liability except the afore mentioned involuntary refund.

Force Majeure Event Means:

Any condition beyond American's control including, but without limitation, meteorological conditions, acts of God, riots, civil commotion, embargoes, wars, hostilities, disturbances or unsettled international conditions - actual threatened or reported. Also, because of any delay, demand, circumstances or requirement due, directly or indirectly to such conditions, or
Any strike, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting American's service, or
Any government regulation, demand or requirement, or
Any shortage of labor, fuel or facilities of American or others, or
Any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by American.
by JDiver June 06, 2010
 
2.
Rural drudges, no class, slovenly, aversive to hard work, dim as a used up bulb. The Kettles were originally a family portrayed in American comic films in the 1940s and '50s (the first was "The Egg And I", portraying life on a chicken / egg farm, the last "The Kettles on Old Macdonald's Farm".) In the first movie, the slow-thinking and lazy Pa and Ma Kettle, with their fifteen children, win a tobacco slogan writing contest and get a modern house with electronic gadgetry they can not fathom. Today, the term is occasionally used to describe an uncouth dufus, a rude lout, someone who completely ignores politeness and common knowledge, someone who might act like an unschooled, ignorant rural clod.
These kettles boarded the plane and proceeded to place their infant in the overhead baggage bin, as he spit tobacco juice on the aisle carpet.
by JDiver May 15, 2010