Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 21 00:00:13 UTC 2013

Harry Truman reintroduced this word in a political context, and OED defines
it as "A shrewd, unprincipled person, esp. a politician. Also in other more
or less fanciful uses (see quots.)."

It appears that the political sense is a later development, attributed in
the 1890s to H.W.J. Ham of the Georgia Legislature, who defined it in
1892-93 as "one with an unquenchable thirst for office, with neither the
power to get it nor the ability to fill it."

OED offers exx. from 1846 and 1863.

These exx. show a rather different sense: a "remarkable or formidable
person or thing; riproarer."  The HDAS files have a few more.

Here is a slight antedating:

1846 _Democratic Free Press_ [Detroit, Mich.] (Jan. 1) 2: Now here I am, a
rale self-propelling double revolving locomotive Snolly Gosterm ready to
attack anything water.

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

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