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.
- Snaggletooth (episode #1560) 01/11/2021: Many of us struggled with the Old English poem "Beowulf" in high school. But what if you could actually hear "Beowulf" in the English of... [more]
- Like a Boiled Owl (episode #1559) 12/21/2020: What's it like to hike the Pacific Crest Trail all the way from Mexico to Canada? You'll end up with sore muscles and blisters, and... [more]
- Your Two Cents (episode #1558) 12/07/2020: Astronauts returning from space say they experience what's called the overview effect, a new understanding of the fragility of our planet and our need to... [more]
- Sock it to Me (episode #1557) 11/16/2020: In the 15th century, the word respair meant "to have hope again." Although this word fell out of use, it's among dozens collected in a... [more]
- Good Vibrations (episode #1556) 10/26/2020: Asthenosphere, a geologist's term for the molten layer beneath the earth's crust, sparks a journey that stretches all the way from ancient Greece to the... [more]