SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Snollygoster … with a side order of Gobblefunk.


It’s another mind-expanding installment of SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

Around this time each week, whiny wails of apprehension and angst begin seeping out of the Gahan command bunker’s down-low ventilation ducts.

Stop it, Roger. STOP! Why all these newfangled words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words — you know, like the ones we used to say back in the glory days, when we were innocent and free, long before a gathering storm of bad taste and naked greed came crashing through like a bond-issue-percentage tsunami …

… knocking us back into the turnbuckles, but feeling oh so fine, and now, as the Great Elongated and Exasperated Obfuscator of comic book series fame (can a Disney World sinecure be far behind?) you teach detailed principles of banking to actual bankers, at least when not otherwise occupied making healthy deposits into your own account?

Thankfully, even if one toils for the Glorious Mayor Who Descended from Heaven, a healthy vocabulary isn’t about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Even municipal corporate attorneys reaping handsome remuneration to suppress information, squelch community dialogue and flee the council chamber before being forced to endure dissenting words uttered by grubby martini-swilling constituents, can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate TIFs, CPIs, IUDs and IOUs, all we really have is time — and the opportunity to learn something, if we’re so inclined.

This week’s word is snollygoster.

Snollygoster has been around in the American political lexicon since the 1840s. Merriam Webster defines it as an unprincipled but shrewd person and it’s used to describe a person, especially a politician, who does things for their own gain. Its origin is unknown, but etymologists suggested that snollygoster may come from German schnelle geister, ‘quick spirit.’ Snollygoster was popularized by Georgia Democrat H. J. W. Ham who traveled around the country during the 1890s with a stump speech titled “The Snollygoster in Politics.” Ham defined a snollygoster as a “place-hunting demagogue” or a “political hypocrite.” President Harry S Truman also used it during his 1952 reelection campaign when he denounced Republican “snollygosters,” in front of the press corps and said, “Better look that word up, it’s a good one.”

When snollygoster was brought to my attention by an eminent local dermatologist, he (the dermatologist, that is) observed to me that the word is reminiscent of those populating Roald Dahl’s whimsical language.

Indeed it is. As a bonus today, take a look at Gobblefunk: Dahl Dictionary at The Wonderful World of Roald Dahl, and learn the meaning of swatchscollop, jumpsquiffling, crabcruncher, and many others.