• huckster •
Pronunciation: hêk-stêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A street peddler, a hawker of petty wares. 2. An overly aggressive, shifty-eyed, seemingly untrustworthy salesman. 3. An agent who produces advertising material.
Notes: Since today's "Good" Word took on its pejorative sense, the words derived from it all have a facetious taste (all the more reason for using them). The practice of huckstering is generally called hucksterism and all hucksters collectively are known as hucksterdom, as to be the best huckster in all hucksterdom.
In Play: Hucksters are usually fast-talking salesmen, pandering to the desires of potential customers if not palming off cheap wares for high prices: "My husband always watches the hucksters in the Sunday morning infomercials hawk their wares." Hucksters today are considered to be dishonest if effective salesmen: "Jes Newcombe is a huckster's huckster who could sell icebergs to Eskimos.
Word History: Etymologists can't help thinking that this word is related to Middle Dutch hokester "peddler" from hoken "to peddle", a relative of the English verb hawk. The specific sense of "an advertising salesman" is due to the 1946 novel The Hucksters by Frederick Wakeman. Huckster is clearly related to hawk, a word that seems to share an origin with German hocken "to crouch, squat". Some have argued that the German word originally meant "to carry pick-a-back" while others argue that the connection goes back to a time when hawkers squatted in a stall. Either way, no one knows where hoken or hocken comes from. (Let's not forget to thank Chris Berry, who doesn't have to huckster Good Words like today's; we love them.)