categories: Cocktail Hour
I’ve been collecting oddball words for many years, always called them cowboy words, since they sound to me made up to cover situations smart but poorly educated wild-west types might find themselves in, certainly the case with “absquatulate.” I’d like any help you might have with etymologies and meanings of the following (beyond the usual dictionary stuff), but also citations—where have you seen these words lately? But most of all I’d like more words for the list. Any candidates? And are these really of a type? I notice a lot of double vowels, a lot of double consonants, too, lots of multi-syllabics, for three things, also lots of ways to say “uproar.” In this economy, I’m figuring maybe some of you have a lot of time on your hands!
Absquatulate: to leave a place or situation, abscond (cowboy Latin).
Bodacious: outrageously uninhibited, remarkable
Boondocks, boonies: far from civilization
Boondoggle: Government or other project that’s a waste of money
Bootleg: illegal or conterfeit goods, esp whiskey, or now music…
Brouhaha: uproar. Firesign Theater. Turns out to be French.
Canoodle: to make out.
Catchpenny: cheap, poor quality goods
Dilly-dally: loiter or vacillate
Dingbat: type ornament between sections, under titles, etc. Also a nincompoop.
Flapdoodle, flamdoodle: nonsense.
Flibbertigibbet: flighty, gossipy (onomatopoeic origin?)
Gaberlunzie: a wandering beggar
Galumph: moving heavily, clumsily (one of Lewis Carroll’s great phonesthemics)
Gerrymander: build political districts with political motives (Gerry + salamander)
Hardscrabble: rough and tumble, poor soil.
Hellacious: really fucking difficult or just amazing.
Hi-jinks: noisy schemes (from a drinking game, c. 17th century)
Hornswoggle: cheat or con
Jamboree: big gathering, as in Boy Scouts
Kit and kaboodle: everything plus the kitchen sink.
Lollygag: loaf (I loafe and invite my soul—Whitman)
Nincompoop: Dingbat, meaning two (see circular definition).
Persnickety: Uptight, overly particular/
Poppycock: flapdoodle. Also a stale x-mas confection made with popcorn.
Ramshackle: rickety construction.
Scallywag: Rapscallion, George W. Bush
Shebang: a civil-war era temporary hut, and therefore a wobbly structure.
Shemozzle: uproar. Found in Zola’s Germinale. Maybe from Yiddish?
Shivaree: noisy celebration. Shake it.
Snollygoster: a clever, unscrupulous person, Dick Cheney.
Splendiferous: really wonderful. An actual, serious word back in 1475.
A few notes of the type I’m looking for:
Gerrymander (given that it’s election day). “It is a process named after its inventor, Elbridge Gerry, a 19th Century Democratic governor of Massachusetts. Largely to protect incumbents, after every 10-year census of the local population there is a redrawing of Congressional districts, crating salamander-like shapes designed to make one party’s voters a winning majority.” The Washington Spectator, Dec. 1, 2002. 28:22 page 3.
Shemozzle: “That encouraged Maheu to let himself go: ‘God’s truth! I’m not a rich man, but I would gladly give a hundred sous so as not to die before seeing [justice for working class]! What a grand shemozzle, eh? Will it come soon, and how shall we set about it?’” –found in Zola’s Germinal, 1885 trans. L.W. Tancock, Penguin Classics, 1954. [great political novel about coal mining and nascent union movements, btw.]
Poppycock: ibid, pg. 350
Balderdash: ibid, pg. 350.
Catchpenny: ibid, pg.452. “By the third day the Paris press had added the disaster to its stock of catchpenny sensations, and people talked of nothing else buy miners dying at the bottom of the pit and greedily scanned the dispatches in each morning’s issue.”
Willy-nilly: ibid, pg. 468
Shenanigan, Brouhaha, Hullabaloo, all used in a single Fedex commercial, c. 1995