Antedating of "Boondoggle"

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Tue Sep 4 08:41:26 UTC 2012

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Shapiro, Fred [fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU]
Sent: Monday, September 03, 2012 4:46 PM
Subject: [ADS-L] Antedating of "Boondoggle"

boondoggle (OED 1935)

1933 _Boston Herald_ 2 Apr. 51 (GenealogyBank)  [Boy] Scout supply houses sell spring snaps for the ends of lanyards, also boondoggle and leather lacings in a large variety of colors.

Fred Shapiro

>From the ads-l archive:

Punch, August 14, 1929 p. 192:


THE CHIEF SCOUT has recently been presented by the University of
Liverpool with a Degree, and by the scouts of America with a boondoggle.  Of the
two, I think I should prefer the boondoggle. Great as is the honour conferred by
the Seat of Learning, there is a homely flavour about the other gift which
touches theheart even more.

"Boondoggle." It is a word to conjure with, to roll around the tongue; an
expressive word to set the fancy moving in strange and comforting channels; and
it rhymes with "goggle," "boggle," and "woggle." three of the most lighthearted
words in the English language.

It sounds like the crooning of a mother to her child; like the bubbling of a
brook to a thirsty traveller; above all, it sounds like forty-two nations
extracting fifty thousand brace of cheerful feet from the particular brand of
mud enjoyed at Arrow Park.

When you ask the American Scouts about the boondoggle they slowly move theirgum
from one cheek to the other before they answer. And it is like that too.

Stephen Goranson




Re: boondoggle (1929)

Jonathan Lighter <[log in to unmask]>

Sun, 2 Sep 2007 12:23:47 -0700

I discussed "boondoggle" in all the rich detail seven hundred words would allow in the"Word Improv" column of the _Atlantic_ about a dozen years ago.  I think the article was called "Boy Scouts and Boondoggles." Metaphorical use took off in 1935, IIRC, as a result of a usage in the _N.Y. Times_, and Texas-born character actor Guy Kibbee was soon quoted (undoubtedly through his publicist) as saying that leather "boondoggles," so called, were a feature of his childhood in the 1890s.  Yeah, maybe.

  Too old and tired to look up the particulars.


[Boy Scouts and boondoggles. Lighter, J E. The Atlantic Monthly 275. 3 (Mar 1995): 132. ]

[unverified snippet, British Newspaper Archive]
“... Flowers and Boondoggle. The Prince had numberless gifts upon him. These included case of port wine from the Portuguese, a huge shillelah from the Irish Free State, a ... ”

Sat 03 Aug 1929, Western Daily Press,  Bristol, England

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