[Ads-l] Further Antedating of "Boondoggle"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 24 00:19:47 UTC 2016

Ben, Fred, Stephen and others: Back in 1935 an article in the Literary
Digest explored the origin of the term boondoggling / boondoggle.
Below is an excerpt that presents two explanations. The second
explanation is a version of the Robert H. Link claim.  The full
article has more hypotheses and can be downloaded in PDF format via
the Unz database by following the link.

Date: June 1, 1935,
Periodical: The Literary Digest
Article: The Lexicographer's Easy Chair
Quote Page 3


[Begin excerpt - may contain OCR errors]
boondoggling.--To several correspondents.--The erudite editor of the
Richmond Times-Dispatch, quoting Guy Kibbee, the movie actor, says
that "any one who ever has been in the Ozark Mountains can tell you
all about it. I come from an old boondoggling family, and my parents
used to make boondoggles long before the Boy Scouts met for their
British jamboree six years ago. Uncle Charlie made tallow lamps out of
gin bottles and gourds filled with fat, and Aunt Emily covered the
dining-room ceiling with tobacco sacks and tin tags shaped like stars,
both examples of boondoggling." In addition to this, Mr. Kibbee has a
theory of how the process came to be called boondoggling. Says he:
"Daniel Boone had a dog of which he was very fond, and was always
making things for the dog to play with. So when any one spoke of
making something out of discarded material, this was called

Then comes another story: Mr. Robert H. Link, of Rochester, N. Y., has
told us that when his son, Robert H. Link, Jr., was born in 1926, the
word popped into his head as soon as he saw the faintly squirming,
wrinkly infant. "Boondoggle," said Mr. Link on that occasion, and
"Boondoggle" Robert H., Jr., has been ever since. In 1929 when local
Boy Scouts, about to depart for a celebration in England, wanted a
name for adornments of plaited thongs they had contrived, Mr. Link, a
former Boy Scout, said boondoggle again, and again the name stuck. The
lanyards still are known as boondoggles.

Another explanation of the term is...
[End excerpt]


On Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 6:36 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Further Antedating of "Boondoggle"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 4:33 PM, Fred Shapiro wrote:
>> boondoggle (OED 1935)
>> 1927 _Democrat and Chronicle_ (Rochester, N.Y.) 23 July 26/2
>> (Newspapers.com)  They had been tricked in a way that left nothing
>> more to be desired.  Boondoggle.  This was terrible.
>> 1927 _Democrat and Chronicle_ (Rochester, N.Y.) 4 Dec. 63/7
>> (Newspapers.com)  Scouts of Roosevelt Troop Plan Contest ... The
>> second edition of the "Boondoggle" is out and has aroused no little
>> interest among the members of the troop.  George Alexander is
>> editing the paper this year and has been doing a fine job of it.
> Assuming they're correctly dated, these are wonderful finds,
> antedating various reports from Aug. 1929, when Rochester scouts
> brought their "boondoggles" to the World Scouting Jamboree in England.
> Cites from 1927 would still support the claim of the Rochester
> scoutmaster Robert H. Link that he coined "boondoggle" upon the birth
> of his son, Robert H., Jr., in 1925. (When the New York Herald Tribune
> first reported Link's claim in a front-page article on 4/8/35, they
> said his son was born in 1926, but other sources pinpoint his
> birthdate to 7/8/25.)
> See my Word Routes column (following up on my Lexicon Valley podcast
> appearance) here:
> https://www.vocabulary.com/articles/wordroutes/the-story-of-boondoggle-a-useful-word-for-useless-work/
> The context of the 7/23/27 cite is a bit unclear -- is "boondoggle"
> being used as a minced oath of some sort? But the 12/4/27 cite
> intriguingly suggests that the Rochester scouts were publishing a
> newspaper called "Boondoggle." I wonder if copies of it still exist? I
> didn't come across any mention of the newspaper in my "boondoggle"
> research.
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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