Scott in Billings, Montana, wonders about the word hornswoggle, meaning to swindle, bamboozle, deceive, or trick. This verb found its way into American English during the 1820’s, when there was a fad among newspaper editors and writers for inventing words as funny as they were pretentious-sounding. Among these were words like goshbustified, skedaddle, absquatulate, snollygoster, and discombobulate. A similar thing happened in the 16th century when learned people created what came to be known as inkhorn terms. This is part of a complete episode.

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