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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Feb 07, 2006 12:31 am

• mountebank •

Pronunciation: môn-(t)ê-bængk • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. (Older sense) A purveyor of quack medicines who uses sweet talk and trickery to make sales. 2. (Current sense) A sophisticated swindler, a smooth talker who hoodwinks or bamboozles people out of their money.

Notes: Today's word is related to saltimbanco, with the same meaning, used up into the first half of the 20th century. Saltimbanco originally meant "leap onto a bench" (see saltate, Word History). Mountebank may be used as a verb, as to mountebank among the hoity-toity, and mountebankery has been widely used to refer to the activities of a mountebank.

In Play: Mountebanks naturally gravitate toward money: "Many people are already convinced that the Enron corporation was run by mountebanks solely to enrich themselves." Television now brings the mountebank's bench right into our living rooms: "Gilda Lilly worked for 17 years as a TV mountebank who hawked weight-loss pills to a gullible public."

Word History: This Good Word started out as Italian montambanco from the phrase monta im banco "to mount a bench", containing monta "mounts, gets up on" + banco "bench". The reference here is to itinerant salesmen who used a raised platform to hawk their wares from. Bank, the financial institution, took its name from the money-changer's bench of times long past. In the original sense, bank mutated into banch and, finally, bench. Italian montare "mount, get up on" is obviously related to English mount and mountain, which makes it a distant cousin of mound.
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Postby Stargzer » Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:28 am

Whenever I hear this word I think of an English Peer:

I say, old chap! Whatever became of Lord Montebank?

Oh, he's fallen on hard times, he has! I heard he was trying to hawk orange scarves on Garvaghy Road in Portadown last July.

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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Feb 07, 2006 8:06 am

This Good Word started out as Italian montambanco from the phrase monta im banco "to mount a bench",

In like English in.

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