Saturday, August 1, 2020


Anecdotal Evidence explores the etymology of humbug and finds it obscure.
The OED defines humbug as “a thing which is not really what it pretends to be; an imposture, a deception, fraud, sham,” dating its appearance in English to 1750, but doesn’t even try to come up with a likely etymology....

One thinks first of Ebenezer Scrooge’s trademark dismissal: “Bah! Humbug!” Our blessed English is rich with synonyms and near-synonyms: claptrap, buncombe (a Mencken favorite), guff, balderdash, rot, blather (the title of a magazine edited by Flann O’Brien at University College, Dublin), malarkey, baloney, hooey, hogwash, poppycock, codswallop, bilge, bosh, tripe and, of course, the always useful bullshit. ....
Got into an argument about classroom discipline once on a faculty in-service day. It got heated because the other guy thought I had accused him of incompetence. (I realized that later — I hadn't intended to convey that.) I apparently used the BS term and quite offended him — he had earlier told the others present that Skaggs's opinions were nonsense. I wasn't sure why my words carried a more insulting message than his.

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