6/9/10

Boodle

I was going to post about ConQuest, but thanks to a few bothersome muscles in my ankle, I wasn't able to go. So I'll move along with this new post, "Boodle."

"Boodle" - what the Heck is that? According to Wikipedia, the word boodle arose in mid-1880s New York as a term for bribes paid to local politicians by a company building a street railway. It came to be another word for graft. The term even pops up in James Joyce's Ulysses.

I came across boodle while working on my book about county-seat conflicts in Kansas. It was used to to attack an opponent during these fights. The newspaper editors who used it also added letters to invent more words. Tthe leading men of a rival town or the men running the town company could be called "boodlers." Opposing communities could be dismissed as "boodle towns." These terms were added to "schemers," "swindlers," "frauds," and others as a lexicon of insults to puff up one town over the rest.

Although boodle is a nice word, it's completely fallen out of usage. I hadn't even heard of it until last year, when I began hitting the fights that took place in the late 1880s. And yet, it's got a nice ring to it. It sounds funny, which might make it all the better an insult. After all, how else to diminish your rivals than to use silly words that make them seem silly.

This is one reason why I like researching history. I come across words and terms no longer in use. Finding out their meaning takes me back in some small way to the past. A word like "boodle" reminds me that the past can be interesting.

However, the past is still the past. It might be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I'm not giving up air conditioning just so I can hear "boodle" used a lot. Maybe I can have it both ways; maybe boodle will come back into style.

I'm not holding my breath for that. But if it does, remember, you heard it here first.

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