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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Wed May 16, 2007 11:10 pm

• skullduggery •

Pronunciation: skêl-dêg-ê-ree • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: Chicanery, shadiness, underhandedness, jiggery-pokery, hanky-panky.

Notes: Given the sense of the original word (see History), current meaning of this Good Word is very mild, even a little facetious as a result of its ridiculous look and sound. In the US, one of the Ls is often omitted (skulduggery) but most dictionaries now assert that skullduggery is the preferred spelling. Just remember that this word has double double consonants.

In Play: Using skullduggery instead of sterner words like moral turpitude or deceit is a way refer to moral depravity more obliquely, more tongue-in-cheek: "What sort of skullduggery did you have to resort to in order to get Able Mann take the job you offered him?" But not always: "The Watergate burglary was but the final twist of a long history of political skullduggery leading up to the US elections of 1972."

Word History: Today's Good Word is probably an alteration of Scots sculduddery "obscenity, fornication". No one has any idea where this word comes from. When I hear this word though I think of pirates and buccaneers, whose symbol was the skull and crossbones and who were known for digging holes (dig, dug, dug) to bury treasure. Since skullduggery approaches their behavior more than the meaning of skullduddery, I think piratical influence must have been involved in the development of this word's meaning. (It would have been skullduggery had Rodger Collins kept this word to himself and not suggested, as he did, that we run it as one of our Good and funny Words.)
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Postby gailr » Wed May 16, 2007 11:36 pm

Pirates? arrrrrrr matey

Some engaged in skullduggery in hopes of getting a buccaneer.

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Postby Perry » Thu May 17, 2007 9:35 am

A dollar must have really been a dollar back then, if they would take such risks for only a buck a neer.
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Postby gailr » Thu May 17, 2007 11:11 pm

Since the pirates operated on a gold standard, a buc traded well on the international exchange rate. And since skullduggery'd ears had to be recovered right sharp before being lost, as it were, they may well have been worth their weight in gold. Hence, a buccaneer.

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Postby Stargzer » Mon May 21, 2007 11:12 pm

And here all along I though buccaneer was just a word for mighty expensive corn.

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Postby Bailey » Tue May 22, 2007 10:35 am

no, I'm pretty sure it's the bounty paid on pirates. buck an ear. Hence the old statement go stick-it-in-your-ear.

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Postby sluggo » Mon May 28, 2007 2:42 pm

arrr, reminds me of an old joke not worth repeating (so here it is):

Little boy goes out for Hallowe'en in a pirate costume. Arriving at his conquest target, he knocks on the front door. The grownup answers the door and coos, "ooh, a pirate! Avast! But where are your buccaneers?"
Kid thinks for a minute... "under my buccan hat?"
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Postby MTC » Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:20 pm

"Buccan" good, sluggo!

Back to "skullduggery," I have always connected it with buried bodies; hence "skull" and "dug." But the etymology is buried somewhere. Now, if we could only find it!

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