Word of the Day – July 9, 2012

boondoggle (noun)

BOO:N dah guhl

a trifling or pointless project financed by public funds

Denver International Airport: a $4 billion ghost field. Until computerized robotic baggage handlers can be made to function properly, the airport’s towers, hangars, and shops will lie idle, awaiting the first pulse of commerce. Denver International can scarcely be invoked in the press without being tagged one of the costliest boondoggles ever.
J. E. Lighter     March 1995

Boondoggle was originally a Boy Scout term for a wood or bone ring through which scouts slipped a neckerchief, or for a braided leather lanyard they made from which to hang whistles, compasses and keys. The Oxford English Dictionary lists the word’s origin as unknown, but there is reason to believe an American scoutmaster, Robert H. Link (d. 1957), coined it. The word acquired its political meaning in 1935, after a New York Times article described an investigation into the wasteful spending of government money in New York City during the Depression. It was headlined: “$3,187,000 Relief Is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play.” A sub-headline read, “Boon Doggles Made.” A city commission learned that the money was spent teaching people on relief pastimes such as ballet and tap dance. One witness said he taught boon doggles, which he described as “gadgets” such as leather belts.

… from More Words That Make A Difference

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