Opinion

Bamboozled by the origins of this word

Damon Wayans in a scene from the movie Bamboozled.
Damon Wayans in a scene from the movie Bamboozled.

A FEW years ago a film was made called Bamboozled.

I didn't see it and I don't think it was much of a film (please don't write in and tell me you enjoyed it) but it had a huge cast of leading characters. In some countries it was called It's Showtime. It was also called The Very Black Show in France.

The word bamboozle was from my younger days and I always thought it was a cant word (in other words, a word you don't want to know). You would be surprised at the words that I always believed were made up until I later discovered they were in the dictionaries. By the time I discovered that it was too late to use them.

(Somebody mentioned dictionaries and asked me if all dictionaries used the same definitions. They don't, but many people believe they should).

Bamboozle goes back at least 300 years.

The first use in print that I could discover was in 1703, when dramatist Colly Cibber said sham proofs were intended to bamboozle him.

You probably have used bamboozle yourself.

My Macquarie says it means to deceive by trickery or impose upon. Then it says to mystify or deceive. It says the word is of cant origin. Heinemann says basically the same thing. It gives an example: "I was completely bamboozled by the time he finished explaining it to me".

Collins says it is an informal word that is intended to gain some advantage. It gives an example: "The sermons were intended to bamboozle the workers into obedience".

Webster says the origins are uncertain but the meaning is intended to hoax.

Then we come to Samuel Johnson, whose first real dictionary was thrust upon the public in 1755.

He says bamboozle was a cant word not used in grave writings. But it still meant to deceive or confound. A bamboozler was a cheat.

(I came across a word from Kate Burridge. A bootylicious woman was a woman with an attractive rear. It has nothing to do with bamboozle, but I just had to mention it. I have never used it.) Kate Burridge in her book does say bamboozle is highly respectable today.

John Ayto says bamboozle is a mystery word that first appeared in print in 1703.

My big dictionary says it was mentioned in the Tatler in the context of "the continued corruption of the English tongue".

He suggests it might be of Scottish origin.

My big dictionary says bamboozle first appeared in print in 1703.

It mentioned that government by bamboozle always presented considerable advantages at first sight. I know the feeling.

The word bamboozle has given us some other words, Such as bamboozled, bamboozler, bamboozlement and bamboozling, It gives an example of bamboozling with the comment "all the good language was lost upon him".

But you can also get bamboozler jelly beans or bamboozler friends.

Of course, if you do not know the answer to a question, you can always try to bamboozle the questioner. I have tried that a few times. Sometimes it works; mostly it doesn't.

Topics:  bamboozle dictionary


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Undercover cops bust weed dealers in sting

Two women busted supplying marijuana in undercover sting

Why mum decided Easter Bunny shouldn't visit her 'naughty' kids

Tracy Elizabeth's note from the Easter Bunny to her children on Easter Sunday.

Instead of Easter eggs, kids get you've been naughty note from Bunny

Road smash puts two in hospital

Six people were involved in a smash on a busy Coast road overnight

Local Partners

Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme dies

TRIBUTES have poured in for Jonathan Demme, the Oscar-winning director of Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, who has died aged 73.

Sophie Monk casting a wide net as Bachelorette

Sophie Monk is Australia's new Bachelorette.

Producers ‘inundated’ with calls as they widen age range of suitors.

Viewers officially bored of Aussie biopics

House of Bond’s Ben Mingay as Alan Bond with Rachael Taylor as Diana Bliss.

Latest biopic House of Bond a ‘flop’ as reality TV dominates screens

Bill Cosby: Embattled comic breaks silence on future

Cosby said he wanted to get back on stage doing comedy.

Shania Twain to drop first album in 15 years

Shania Twain

Shania Twain is about to drop her first album since 2002.

What's on the big screen this week

Dave Bautista and Pom Klementieff in a scene from Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2.

GUARDIANS of the Galaxy is back with even more laughs.

Grinspoon is happy to help with flood appeal

BACK ON THE ROAD: Grinspoon remain happy to assist with Lismore's flood recovery.

"Lismore is the birthplace of Grinspoon... we owe that community"

Tropical paradise by the sea

Catch the cooling ocean breezes at sparkling Coolum Beach apartment

Couple gets rich renovating run-down city homes

RENO RADICALS: Baden and Nelson Marino-Hall have turned three Toowoomba homes around for profit, saying the Garden City was a haven for renovators like themselves.

The couple has already turned around three homes

Townhouse pitch raises questions over 'high density'

BIG PLANS: Residents have a chance to offer their opinion on plans to build 42 townhouses at Raceview.

Developer plans 42 townhouses for Ipswich suburb

7 million dollar city homes for sale right now

3 Keira Court, Blue Mountain Heights.

Here are seven of Toowoomba's best, and most expensive, houses

'Raping and pillaging': Landlord's anger with nightmare cost

Chris Duane, who is chairman of the body corporate for Terralina Court, says insurance companies are charging too much for premiums.

BODY corporate boss unleashes on huge costs dumped on home owners.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!