I come from a long line of ne’er-do-wells, I’ll be the first to admit it. My reticence to hoodwink my fellow man makes me a bit of a black sheep in the family. My Cousin Silas can talk you into or out of anything, and, as you can imagine, is quite lethal at cocktail parties. He sent me a letter today and I should be expecting a visit sometime this fall. Hide the silverware and bring out the croquet mallets! (Obviously because he’s a delightful croquet player and we have an ongoing match that spans decades.) Today’s word, then, is in anticipation of my questionable cousin.

Honeyfuggle is a verb that means to deceive by flattery or sweet-talk; swindle or cheat or dupe. As well as to wheedle, to ballyhoo. Quite simply put, to honeyfuggle is to flatter with an ulterior motive.

This is a 19th century American term, with different spellings and variances evolving over time. These include honey fugle, honeyfogle and honeyfugle. To parse the word out, the honey portion is the “sweet talk” aspect of the term, but the fuggle portion is puzzling. It’s commonly assumed to be a variation on the English dialect word coneyfugle, which means to hoodwink or cajole by flattery. Interestingly, coney is the old word for an adult rabbit and fugle means to cheat. How coney and fugle got put together is lost to the ages.

Bubo thinks that since rabbits are so soft, you would “soften” someone in order to cheat them. As language and idioms changed, people quit “softening” and started “sweetening” so the coney evolved to honey. She’s so smart, that one.

And I’m not trying to honeyfuggle her.


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