Thursday, July 28, 2016

WheRe WordS WanDer #7: bamboozle

1703, originally a slang or cant word, perhaps Scottish from bombaze "perplex," related to bombast, or French embabouiner "to make a fool (literally 'baboon') of."

 it first appeared in English at the beginning of the 18th century, just in time to make the list Jonathan Swift (author of “Gulliver’s Travels” and “A Modest Proposal”) was compiling of words that were, in his opinion, corroding, if not destroying, the English language (as outlined in his “The Continual Corruption of our English Tongue,” 1710). Swift also, by the way, objected to the words “mob” and “banter,” as well as the contractions “I’d” and “can’t.” Since most of the terms that drew Swift’s ire were, at that time, slang used by the lower classes in England, it’s fair to assume “bamboozle” originated in the same precincts.
One of the more plausible theories about the origin of “bamboozle” ties it to the Scots word “bombaze,” meaning “to confuse or mystify.” Efforts have also been made to connect it to the French word “embabouiner” meaning “to make a fool of” (literally, “to make a baboon of”)

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