Weekly Word: Boondoggle

From Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day, I came across the word boondoggle. It has a few meanings:

  1. a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.
  2. work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
  3. a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.

As a verb, it can also be used simply to mean “to deceive”.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, boondoggle was “popularized during the New Deal as a contemptuous word for make-work projects for the unemployed”.

World Wide Words explains that boondoggle was popularized through a New York Times article titled “$3,187,000 Relief is Spent to Teach Jobless to Play … Boon Doggles Made”.

And the American Heritage Dictionary says the word was coined by an American scoutmaster named Robert H. Link – whoever that is.