The Department of Redundancy Department

It’s raining! I’ve been out in the garden all morning, weeding and pruning, while being serenaded by a house-full of creatures convinced they will make the Odd Chamber Group the most respected in Brooklyn. Bubo’s been reading the paper and muttering. Which is fairly typical for a Wednesday.

I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to be a bit topical with today’s word, so indulge me.

Snollygoster is a noun and is defined as a shrewd and unprincipled person, specifically a politician, guided by personal gain. The word is considered a strictly American word, first defined in a dictionary in the mid-1800s as, quite simply, a shyster.

The origins of the word are dubious, though popular theory has the word linked to the German word snellygoster, perhaps a derivative of the term schnelle Geister, literally a fast-moving ghost. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, parents warned their children of this snellygoster – a mythic and enormous creature that had a nasty habit of eating disobedient children. And the occasional bit of livestock.

How snellygoster mutated into snollygoster we shall never know, I’m sure. What we do know is that all politicians are snollygosters, but not all snollygosters are politicians.


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