Thursday, May 3, 2012

Boggled by Bogus Bogeys

Boggled by Bogus Bogeys

One would think that boggle, bogus, & bogey would all be closely related. They may be. Or not. It seems the Queens & Kings of Etymology can’t always dig up enough dirt to prove anything, so instead, we have speculation, but fascinating speculation it is. Here are some bits & pieces of it:

Bogey, bogie or bogy, may be derived from bug, meaning scarecrow, bugbear or terror, OR bogy meaning the devil, OR from bogle, meaning goblin

Over the years, this derogatory term has been used to mean:

-one who spoils the game or interferes with the pitch
-a tax collector
-a curse
-bad luck
-a dissatisfied customer
-a lump of mucus or slime
(& there’s a verb to go bogy, which means to become prophetic or develop a second sight)

Bogus may have originated as a term for a machine which printed counterfeit money, OR may have come from tantrabogus, a term used in Vermont to refer to ill-looking objects, OR from near Devonshire, where bogus was used to refer to the devil.

Over the years, bogus has been used to mean:
-a sham
-anything spurious
-something unpleasant, dull, or silly

Boggle is somewhat straightforward in its etymology, as most agree boggle came from the French word bogle, a spectre.

Over the years the verb boggle has meant:
-to start with fright
-to take alarm
-to shy, as a startled horse
-to hesitate
-to play fast or loose
-to scare
-to make a mess of
while the noun form of boggle has meant:
-a goblin
-an objection
-an enjoyable word game from Milton Bradley

It’s all pretty boggling. Any thoughts on all this, stalwart followers?


  1. And I wonder where Mr. Humphrey Bogart's Bogey fits in here? He did play some fairly devilish characters.

    But he certainly wasn't one of those tantrabogus.

  2. Hi Anne,
    I'm with you on the devilish connection with Mr. Bogart. Thanks for popping by.

  3. A "bogie" in golf is "one over par," as in taking 5 strokes on a Par-4 hole. If you hit too many bogies, you get boogie-boarded.

    1. Hey Steve,
      Yes, indeed. The golf bogie apparently has some connection to the goblin/curse/bad luck bogie. It didn't occur to me to look for a relationship with "boogie."