Online Encyclopedia

HUMBUG

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 876 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HUMBUG, an imposture, sham, fraud. The word seems to have been originally applied to a trick or hoax, and appears as a slang term about 1750. According to the New English Dictionary, Ferdinando Killigrew's The Universal Jester, which contains the word in its sub-title " a choice collection of many conceits .. . bonmots and humbugs," was published in 1754, not, as is often stated, in 1735-1740. The principal passage in reference to the introduction of the word occurs in The Student, 1750-1751, ii. 41, where it is called " a word very much in vogue with the people of taste and fashion." The origin appears to have been unknown at that date. Skeat connects it (Etym. Diet. 1898) with " hum," to murmur applause, hence flatter, trick, cajole, and " bug," bogey, spectre, the word thus meaning a false alarm. Many fanciful conjectures have been made, e.g. from Irish uim-bog, soft copper, worthless as opposed to sterling money; from " Hamburg," as the centre from which false coins came into England during the Napoleonic wars; and from the Italian uomo bugiardo, lying man.
End of Article: HUMBUG
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KARL WILHELM VON HUMBOLDT (1767-1835)
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ALEXANDER HUME (c. 1557-1609)

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