Anatoly looks at the origin of the word “chicanery.”
Many Americans have seen the now-infamous Star Trek video made by the IRS with taxpayer funds. It is painful to watch. Captain Kirk (known in the 21st century as William Shatner) pronounced himself “appalled at the utter waste of U.S. tax dollars.” The video’s dialogue is depressingly sophomoric. The acting talents of the IRS employees are comparable to the acting talents of law professors, that is to say, nonexistent.
Two circumstances have induced me to turn to bamboozle. First, I am constantly asked about its origin and have to confess my ignorance (with the disclaimer: “No one knows where it came from”; my acquaintances seldom understand this statement, for I have a reputation to live up to and am expected to provide final answers about the derivation of all words). Second, the Internet recycles the same meager information at our disposal again and again (I am not the only recipient of the fateful question). Since the etymology of bamboozle is guesswork from beginning to end, it matters little how often the uninspiring truth is repeated. Below I will say what little I can about the verb.
Anatoly Liberman discusses the etymology of Whitsunday.
Anatoly Liberman’s monthy gleanings.
Anatoly looks at the word “theodolite”.