Let's take a week to enjoy some boisterous words that make you grin.
As Quinion notes, "The 1830s — a period of great vigour and expansiveness in the US — was also a decade of inventiveness in language, featuring a fashion for word play, obscure abbreviations, fanciful coinages, and puns." Many of this week's words seem to be such US coinages, although the various etymology authorities often give wildly disparate dates.
sockdolager - a decisive, finishing blow
[1830, a flight of fancy from sock "hit hard;" and doxology, on a notion of "finality."]
This was the near-to-last word President Abraham Lincoln heard, before he was assassinated while watching the play "Our American Cousin." Assassin John Wilkes Booth (who knew the play well) waited for a laugh line, so that the audience's laughter would distract from Booth's gunshot. The line: "Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap."
hornswoggle - to bamboozle; deceive.
[US 1829, according to most sources. A now-obscure synonym was honeyfugle or honeyfogle.]
skedaddle – to leave hastily; scram
[1861, US military slang]
Follow-up: Less than two decades ago a Brit author included both sockdolager and "honeyfuggle" among those
[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Jan 1st, 2004 at 11:41.]
discombobulate – to throw into a state of confusion.
coined 1830s, 1894, or 1916, depending on which source you consult
Bonus: "Diabolus ex machina" [diabolus = devil] is punning on deus ex machina [god from the machine] - any sudden and artificial device introduced to resolve a conflict and end a book, drama, etc. In Greek and Roman theater, stage machinery would lower a god or gods onstage to resolve a hopeless situation: thus god comes from the machine.
[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Jan 1st, 2004 at 21:56.]
scalawag– a scamp, rascal, or rogue; an amusingly mischievous child.
US; 1848. Earliest sense was of "undersized or worthless animal" (suggesting orgin in the Scotish island of of Scalloway, one of the Shetland Islands, as as allusion to the small Shetland ponies. Another theory traces the word to Scots scurryvaig, vagabond). It later came to also mean some disreputable person. After the US Civil War (ending 1865), it became a term of abuse specifically aimed at those white Southerners who were prepared to accept the measures imposed during Reconstruction, often because they would profit from them.
Yesterday we had an example quote concerning the movie "Something's Gotta Give". Here's another on the same subject.
lollygag - to fool around; to spend time aimlessly; to dawdle or dally
[First appeared in US, mid-1800s]
Bonus: Yesterday's quotation deliciously illustrates still another word that fits this week's theme:
Bonus word: rambunctious – noisy, boisterous and disorderly
US coinage 1830. Probably suggested by rum, boisterous, robust, and bumptious, say the sources, and i would add roisterous.
And now our final word of the week.
absquatulate - to make off hurridly, decamp, abscond. [with a guilty sense, as, "He absquatulated with the silver."]
[1833 mock-latin "to go off and squat elsewhere"]
This word was common as late as the 1940's, the time in which Mr. Rooselvelt's novels are set (Mencken), but one almost never sees it today. The eminent William Safire recently made a rare use of this word - and used it incorrectly: "[This] is the penultimate (one more to go) volume in the set that no library can afford to absquatulate." New York Times Magazine, Dec. 8, 2002
[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Sun Jan 4th, 2004 at 13:56.]
I've loved these words this week. I wonder what William Safire got absquatulate mixed up with?