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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."
 
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hornswoggle - to bamboozle; deceive.
[US 1829, according to most sources. A now-obscure synonym was honeyfugle or honeyfogle.]
quote:
In one building the Council on Wage and Price Stability is working overtime trying to persuade, pressure, hornswoggle businessmen to hold down prices and workers to restrain their wage demands.
- Milton Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1979)

P.F. is going to hornswoggle the Democrats.
- Oregon Argus, May 12, 1860

Now we want the particulars of how much honey fugling and wool pulling was done.
- Rocky Mountain News, Denver, Aug. 14, 1862
 
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skedaddle – to leave hastily; scram
[1861, US military slang]
quote:
Kofi Annan talks a brave game, but the U.N. has already cut and run, leading the most ignominious skedaddle since the first battle at Bull Run.
- Wesley Pruden, Washington Times, Dec. 16, 2003


Follow-up: Less than two decades ago a Brit author included both sockdolager and "honeyfuggle" among those
quote:
American words that remain firmly unborrowed in British English, though they are encountered often enough in magaines like Time, Newsweek, and the New Yorker ... Without them one cannot hope to understand the novels of modern American novelists like Bernard Malamud or Saul Bellow, or, for that matter the daily speech of most Americans.
- Robert Burchfieeld, The English Language (Oxford University Press, 1885)


[This message was edited by wordcrafter on Thu Jan 1st, 2004 at 11:41.]
 
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discombobulate – to throw into a state of confusion.
coined 1830s, 1894, or 1916, depending on which source you consult
quote:
Last week this column argued that his [Al Gore's] endorsement made Howard Dean look unstoppable. Then a diabolus ex machina appeared to throw a weighty obstacle in the good doctor's path. The unearthing of Saddam Hussein has not only left Dr Dean looking visibly discombobulated; it has also ... solidified the party establishment's swirling fears about Dr Dean's anti-war insurgency.
- The Economist, Dec. 18, 2003

An inveterate skirt chaser is discombobulated; when, for the first time, he falls for a woman who is not half his age in the droll romantic comedy "Something's Gotta Give".
- Gerri Pare, Catholic News Service, Dec. 10, 2003


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.]
 
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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.
quote:
As the pram-robbing perennial bachelor Harry Sanborn in "Something's Gotta Give," Jack Nicholson reprises a role he has perfected onscreen and off. A scalawag satyr who considers 30 the retirement age for women in his dating pool, Harry is catnip to the ladies. He's funny, accomplished, fabulously wealthy and a seemingly unobtainable romantic escape artist.
– Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 12, 2003
 
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lollygag - to fool around; to spend time aimlessly; to dawdle or dally
[First appeared in US, mid-1800s]
quote:
Sarah Pekkanen, a freelance writer and mother of two rambunctious boys, finds a no-frills approach [to exercising] better for her. No lollygagging for this girl. She's up and out of the house before 6 to work out with her "Sergeant's Program" friends.
- Joanne Cronrath Bamberger, Riding Your Fantasy Life to Fitness, The Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2003
 
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Bonus: Yesterday's quotation deliciously illustrates still another word that fits this week's theme:
quote:
Sarah Pekkanen, a freelance writer and mother of two rambunctious boys, finds a no-frills approach better for her.
– Joanne Cronrath Bamberger, Riding Your Fantasy Life to Fitness, The Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2003

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.
 
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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"]
quote:
"Murdered? Are you sure?"
Baines nodded. "No question about it. ... We are almost certain who did it ... A young lawyer who works for Mr. Hopkins, David Lasky."
"I know Mr. Lasky. What makes you think he did it?"
"Two things, Ma'am. In the first place, the D.C. police found incriminating letters in Miss Robinson's room. In the second place, David Lasky has absquatulated."
Murder in the Executive Mansion, by Elliott Roosevelt (son of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt)

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.]
 
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I've loved these words this week. Big Grin I wonder what William Safire got absquatulate mixed up with?
 
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