Printable Version
Pronunciation: hoks Hear it!

Part of Speech: Transitive verb, Noun

Meaning: 1. [Noun] A fraud, a deception, a con. 2. [Verb] To defraud, deceive, con.

Notes: Today's good word does double duty as a noun and verb: if you hoax someone you have committed a hoax. In fact, you may be a hoax yourself, unless you prefer being a hoaxer, in which case your victim becomes the hoaxee. Don't forget that X is a redundant letter in the English alphabet standing for [ks]. This means that you will need an [e] in the plural: hoaxes.

In Play: Hoaxes are driven by our insecurities and pulled by that old stand-by, greed: "It was discovered after my liver transplant that my surgeon had hoaxed the entire hospital board with a diploma that he had printed from his computer." I just discovered that our gardener's credentials are a hoax; he is actually a former White House lawyer.

Word History: In the court of King James (1566-1625) there was a magician who called himself 'the Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus', a name taken from a phrase he uttered when performing his magic tricks (much as contemporary magicians often say "Abracadabra" or something similar). The phrase probably originated in the Latin phrase spoken during the Eucharist, hoc est corpus (meum) "this is (my) body", since nonbelievers often take Transubstantiation as hocus pocus. Because his trade was sleight of hand, to hocus pocus was used almost immediately to refer to this sort of deception. By 1640 the phrase had already been reduced to simply hocus and by 1796, to hoax. Thus the sense of today's good word has drifted from the body of Christ to a violation of the Commandments. (Today we thank our old friend Ray Johnson of Lackland AFB, Texas, for a good word that has traveled farther than any jet.)

Dr. Goodword,

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