Monday, February 25, 2008


I subscribe to a lot of "____ of the Day/Week" e-mails: Joke of the Day, The Daily Curmudgeon,'s weekly recipe summary, and so on. One of my favorites, though, is the "Word of the Day" from I enjoy building my vocabulary, and as a degree-holding linguist, I always find the information on the derivations of words interesting.

The Word of the Day that popped up in my mailbox this morning is snollygoster, defined as a regional slang term for an unscrupulous but shrewd person, often referring to a politician, and I think it's a particularly useful word nowadays. Consider all the snollygosters running around out there:

Moqtada al-Sadr;

Vladimir Putin;

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad;

Pervez Musharraf;

Hugo Chavez; and,

Anyone running for President this year.

The word snollygoster, according to the website, originated in the Pennsylvania-Maryland region of the U.S. (although I don't recall ever hearing it when I was growing up in Western Pennsylvania). The snollygoster was said to be a monster, part bird and part reptile, that preyed on children; the threat of the snollygoster was used by parents to keep unruly or disobedient children in line. The etymology suggests that the word is derived from the Pennsylvania Dutch expression schnelle geeschter, or "fast spirits," which makes sense in the context of a bugbear used to frighten children, and the general meaning is one of something "noxious and deceptive."

Like, well, politicians.

The term snollygoster is also sometimes used in New England to refer to the sort of powerful storm generally called a nor'easter. This also suggests the application of the word to politicians, which are frequent sources of directionless, powerful, howling wind.

So, friends, the word of the day is snollygoster. Not something you can sprinkle liberally in your everyday discourse, but a useful term in the right context.

Remember to vote for your favorite snollygoster in November. There's no shortage.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I will be abstaining from voting in the presidential election. I'll vote for every other post but president because I can't in good conscious cast a vote for either of the candidates that are in the lead. They make me twitch.

Amanda said...

I would never have thought that it was a real word. Glad to know of it now though....

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Definately my word of the day. A brilliant one!

craziequeen said...

I guess you could call our prime minister a snollygoster....

you know......whatisname......
thingummybob [thinks] hang on - who IS our prime minister??????

Ah - Mr Snollygoster - Snolly to his friends....