[Ads-l] confidence man (1847), con game/trick/artist (1878)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 27 21:14:32 UTC 2018

In my latest piece for The Atlantic, I look at "con(fidence)" expressions
favored by Trump:


Some antedatings from my research...

* confidence man (OED2 1849)

[ New York Daily Herald, May 30, 1847, p. 2, col. 3
Our sharpest business men have placed "confidence" in him, and for their
reward have been swindled in sums varying from five to one hundred dollars.
https://www.newspapers.com/clip/24082310/confidence_man/ ]

New York Daily Herald, June 5, 1847, p. 2, col. 3
In all probability this is the man, from the description, who has "done"
the knowing ones around the city, commonly called the "confidence" man, of
whom the Herald gave an account a few days ago.

* con game (OED2 1896)

Chicago Tribune, Mar. 5, 1878, p. 8, col. 6
Justice Scully yesterday held the following... Mike Mullin, playing the
"con." game upon Max Polachek and several wholesale dry-goods houses, $100

* con trick (not in OED)

Chicago Tribune, Mar. 24, 1878, p. 8, col. 4
Thomas McDonald, alias Howard, a well known confidence-man, who is wanted
on suspicion of having taken several "con." tricks on the railroad.

* con artist (OED3 1898)

(Chicago) Daily Inter-Ocean, Mar. 28, 1878, p. 8, col. 1
Before Justice Summerfield yesterday... John Harvey, alias William
Williams, great "con" artist, $100.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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