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.
On April 18, 2012, while discussing the etymology of shrimp, I wrote that I had once looked up the word scrumptious, to find out its origin. Much to my surprise, I read that scrumptious is perhaps sumptuous, with -cr- added for emphasis. On May 2, 2012, I attacked shrew. My romance with shr- ~ scr-words abated, but I never forgot it. Today, I’ll continue those two stories and again look at shr- and scr-.
Those who read word columns in newspapers and popular journals know that columnists usually try to remain on the proverbial cutting edge of politics and be “topical.” For instance, I can discuss any word I like, and in the course of more than ten years I have written essays about words as different as dude and god (though my most popular stories deal with smut; I have no idea why).
For years, social scientists have wondered about what causes political development and what can be done to stimulate it in the developing world. By political development, they mean the creation of democratic governments and public bureaucracies that can effectively respond to citizens’ demands.
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”.
Anatoly looks at the origin of the word “chicanery.”