• fob •
Pronunciation: fahb • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A cheat, con artist, or generally deceitful person. 2. (Noun) A very small pocket usually located in the waistband of a pair of trousers for carrying such valuables as money or a pocket watch. 3. (Noun) The chain or tag attached to a small, valuable object like a watch or keys. 4. (Verb) To con, cheat, swindle, usually used with off, that is, to fob off.
Notes: I am old enough to remember my father, uncles and grandfather carrying a large pocket watch on a chain in their fob pocket. Few clothing manufacturers even install fob pockets these days. A half century ago, however, the father's pocket watch and its fob were a deeply sentimental part of his eldest son's inheritance. My father's is hanging beneath a glass bell right in front of me as I write up today's Good Word. As a verb, the word has retained its original meaning, referring to some kind of swindle.
In Play: The fob and fob pocket are remembered by a dwindling number of senior citizens: "Since some fob in Queensley picked Kingsley's pocket, he keeps his large bills in a fob pocket only he knows the location of." The verbal sense of this word, however, still works even for the younger generation: "Beardsley tried to fob off on me a case of California wine as French. Fortunately, I knew France had no province called 'Sonoma'."
Word History: Today's Good Word is of Germanic origin, related to German foppen "to fool, play a prank". This gave rise to the noun, referring to someone sneaky. This meaning was passed on to the fob pocket since it was originally a sneaky (fobproof) pocket used to hide money and other valuables. A fob chain was used to more easily pull valuables from the fob pocket, which is very small and tight, especially if sewn into the waistband of a pair of trousers. Today we add small fobs to our keychains. (Today we should thank Amy Frits again, this time for reminding us of fob with her recent suggestion of fop as a Good Word.)