boondoggle (1929)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sun Sep 2 19:23:47 UTC 2007

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.


Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Stephen Goranson
Subject: boondoggle (1929)

Webster's New Explorer Dictionary of Word Origins (ISBN: 1892859661
Pub. Date: June 2004) pages 58-59 (via live search) traces "boondoggle back to
Scouting [magazine], then, vaguely, to "Punch from the fall of 1929."

In case it's of interest, here's the Punch August 14, 1929 p. 192 item:


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

The American Dialect Society -

Boardwalk for $500? In 2007? Ha!
Play Monopoly Here and Now (it's updated for today's economy) at Yahoo! Games.

The American Dialect Society -

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