[Ads-l] Further Antedating of "Boondoggle"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 26 19:34:24 UTC 2016

Offlist, Fred helpfully supplied advice for dealing with the
recalcitrant Fulton History site, so I've been able to check out the
two cites he provided. The page images are here:

7/23/27: http://goo.gl/U0jwti
12/4/27: http://goo.gl/UdmbGm

Those two cites would need to be bracketed in the OED, since they
don't specifically refer to the braided leather craft. Here's the
earliest I've been able to find with the relevant meaning:

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, May 12, 1928, p. 3?, col. 3
Buck Gets Boondoggle from Scout Admirers
One hundred and fifty boys of Hubbell Boy Scout Troop 7 and Roosevelt
Troop 16 voted it a banner occasion last evening, when they
entertained Buck Jones, cowboy rancher and movie hero, at dinner at
the Central Presbyterian Church. As proof of their regard for Jones
and the feats of his horse, Silver, the boys presented him the most
distinctive insignia of the Rochester troop, a leather Boondoggle or
whistle cord.
[Page image: http://goo.gl/KRxWCQ ]

The next earliest cite I've found with the leatherwork meaning comes
from July 1929, when the Rochester scouts were preparing to go to the
World Scouting Jamboree:

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, July 14, 1929, p. 17, col. 5
Rochester Delegates to International Boy Scout Jamboree Hold Final
Inspection of Equipment
Personal apparel during the inspection consisted of shorts,
short-sleeved khaki shirts, neckerchief, socks and special Scout
shoes, together with "boondoggles," distinctively colored braided
cords worn around the neck.
The Rochester Troop is the only one going to the Jamboree to wear
"boondoggles," it is said. Each scout possesses several of them, one
of a color uniform with those worn by other members of the troop, and
others of miscellaneous hues.
[Page image: http://goo.gl/NMJR4k ]

Then we have several cites from Aug. 1929 reporting on the Jamboree.


On Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 6:36 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> 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.

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