Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Boondoggle – Wacky Word Wednesday

Today’s Wacky Word Wednesday post is anything but a boondoggle… scout’s honor!

From TermWiki.com, the definition of today’s wacky word:

boon·dog·gle

[boon-daw-uhl]

-noun
product of simple manual skill; work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy

A cartoon depiction of boondoggle: product of simple manual skill; work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.

Boondoggle is said to have been coined by an American scoutmaster, R.H. Link, in 1935. Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America is one of the United States’ leading youth development organizations; the goal of the organization is to prepare youth for the “ethical and moral choices” they may need to make in their lifetime by fostering a set of values in them through the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Some research proposes that boondoggle is derived from the word woggle, which is used to describe a “neckerchief fastener,” specifically that of a Boy Scouts.

Boondoggle was commonly used during the New Deal as a way of describing projects that had no real objective except to keep the unemployed busy. Boondoggle is also used to describe projects are funded out of “political favoritism” and are not in themselves of any value to the community or nation.

Research suggests that one of the the first appearance of boondoggle emerged in a New York Times article, titled “$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play…Boon Doggles Made,” on April 4, 1935. In this inaugural application of the word, it was used to describe funding work that involved making “small items of leather, rope and canvas.” In this sense, boondoggle is considered to be “the pioneer word for ‘gadget.’”

A quick search online will demonstrate the current uses of boondoggle. One article featured in The Palm Beach Post News debated the use of technology in the classroom, examining whether they were indeed a “boon” or actually a “boondoggle.” Another technology-focused news publisher, TechNewsWorld, scrutinized social media and social networks role as a “huge boondoggle for bad guys, not just in digging up information about you, but also in the vector of attack.”

Whatever the content, boondoggle has certainly captured our attention as a wacky word with an interesting history. If it has for you as well, feel free to share your thoughts below!

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