Printable Version
Pronunciation: bæm-bu-zêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: (Colloquial) 1. To pull the wool over someone's eyes, to trick or deceive, to dupe, fool. 2. To cheat out of, to obtain by hoax, cozen, hoodwink.

Notes: Today's Good Word could be classified as one of the funniest words in English for its sound and meaning. It is used in situations where you want to say "cheat" but in an inoffensive way. Wags have tried bamboozlement as a noun for this word, even funnier than the original adjective. If you want to play it safe, stick to bamboozling; it works as an adjective, too.

In Play: We are, unfortunately, surrounded by many examples of bamboozlement: "We have the best Congress money can buy; so why does it constantly bamboozle us?" We don't have to look at national politics for examples of bamboozlement: "Galen, how did you bamboozle your sister's share of the candy I gave both of you?"

Word History: This word popped up in English around 1700, when it was mentioned in an article in the Tatler on the continual corruption of the English tongue. (Yes, folks were complaining about the corruption of English way back then.) Originally it must have been a cant word, e.g. criminal jargon. It might have come from Scottish bombaze "perplex", which is related to bombast. More likely it comes from French embabouiner "to make a baboon (babouin) of, trick into doing something you want". Notice the similarity of today's Good Word and the English word baboon. Baboons are intelligent and crafty animals and so their name could have influenced the development of our word today.

Dr. Goodword,

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