the password is BOONDOGGLE

by santoki

Mr. Math of NJ asks, “Do you know the word boondoggle?” Well by golly Mr. Math. When you put it like that, I am not really sure. Like hornswoggle and arsy-versy, I never really gave it too much thought.

A Google search yields 931,000 hits, while a similar news search will introduce stories about “Homeland Security Boondoggle,” “Federal Boondoggle,” and “Boon or Boondoggle.” So does it mean something like SNAFU? Well, not quite:

(n.) 1. An unnecessary or wasteful project or activity. 2. a. A braided leather cord worn as a decoration especially by Boy Scouts. 2. b. A cord of braided leather, fabric, or plastic strips made by a child as a project to keep busy. 3. (intr.v.) To waste time or money on a boondoggle. [Coined by Robert H. Link (died 1957), American scoutmaster.] [1]

(n.) 1. work of little or no value done merely to look busy (v.) 2. Do useless, wasteful, or trivial work[2]

Etymology: 1935, Amer.Eng., of uncertain origin, popularized during the New Deal as a contemptuous word for make-work projects for the unemployed. Said to have been a pioneer word for “gadget.”[3]

So in a nutshell, a boondoggle is something to keep the kids occupied while the adults are off doing naughty things. It’s like Fox News for scouts.


[1] “boondoggle.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 13 Mar. 2007.
[2] “boondoggle.” WordNet® 2.1. Princeton University. 13 Mar. 2007.
[3] “boondoggle.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 13 Mar. 2007.