Word of the Day

Friday, February 26, 2021

bamboozle

[ bam-boo-zuhl ]

verb (used with object)

to deceive or get the better of (someone) by trickery, flattery, or the like.

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What is the origin of bamboozle?

The verb bamboozle, “to deceive or get the better of someone by trickery or flattery,” has no certain origin even though many explanations, more or less plausible, have been suggested. Bamboozle first appears in print in 1703; in 1710, Jonathan Swift, in his letter The Continual Corruption of our English Tongue, printed in The Tatler (No. 230), denounces bamboozle and other now unexceptionable words: “The third refinement observable in the letter I send you, consists in the choice of certain words invented by some pretty fellows; such as banter, bamboozle…. I have done my utmost for some years past to stop the progress…, but have been plainly borne down by numbers, and betrayed by those who promised to assist me.” By 1712 bamboozle had acquired the additional meaning “to perplex, baffle, mystify.”

how is bamboozle used?

There are many ways for marketing professionals to bamboozle customers into believing they are getting a better deal than they actually are—notable among them “as low as” pricing come-ons and offers that promise to deliver “up to” some standard of service.

"How Fast Is Your Broadband?", New York Times, April 7, 2010

You can’t even get nicer sheets by paying more—money has no meaning there. And don’t bother typing in words like “Egyptian cotton” or “thread count”—you’re just offering them more precise ways to bamboozle you.

Miranda July, "The Metal Bowl," The New Yorker, August 28, 2017

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

zeugma

[ zoog-muh ]

noun

the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is appropriate to only one of them or is appropriate to each but in a different way, as in On his fishing trip, he caught three trout and a cold.

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What is the origin of zeugma?

The grammatical and rhetorical term zeugma “the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words when it is appropriate to only one of them,” is a favorite of grammar enthusiasts (if of no one else). Zeugma appears once in Old English (spelled zeuma, a Medieval Latin spelling) in the Enchiridion (“Handbook”), a scientific and mathematical textbook by the Anglo-Saxon scholar Byrhtferth of Ramsey (c.970-c.1020). Byrhtferth only defines zeuma and translates it into Old English (gefeig “a joining”). Zeuma next appears three times in an anonymous Middle English grammatical treatise from the mid-15th century. The author defines zeuma and gives easy examples in Latin. Zeugma comes via Latin zeugma from Greek zeûgma “something used for joining, a yoking, a bond, zeugma” a derivative of the verb zeugnýnai “to yoke, bind fast.”

how is zeugma used?

The sentence He fished for compliments and trout involves zeugma because it indicates that the word fished should be understood both metaphorically and literally.

Karen Sullivan, Mixed Metaphors, 2018

Hilda and Graham Heap stayed at a lodge in New Zealand where one of the guest-book entries from the 1960s was: ‘Time and sand flies.’ It is a zeugma, from the Greek, ‘to yoke’, a figure of speech in which a word applies to two others in different senses.

John Rentoul, "The Top Ten: Zeugmas," Independent, August 16, 2015

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

frumious

[ froo-mee-uhs ]

adjective

very angry.

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What is the origin of frumious?

The adjective frumious is one of Lewis Carroll’s whimsical creations, appearing in his nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” in Through the Looking Glass (1871). Carroll, in a preface he wrote to a later poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), where frumious is also used, etymologized frumious as a blend of fuming and furious.

how is frumious used?

Beware the Jabberwock, my son! / The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! / Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun / The frumious Bandersnatch!

Lewis Carroll, "Jabberwocky," Through the Looking Glass, 1871

As the weeks passed, the frumious language that his supporters used all sounded more and more like the outcry of people sure that they would be cheated of their due and ready to strike the hardest blow that a well-turned period would allow.

Mark Wahlgren Summers, The Ordeal of the Reunion, 2014

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