At the law firm where I held my first private sector job following my clerkship a partner told me that “we’re in the vocabulary business.” This was fine with me, as I’ve always had a pretty good vocabulary thanks to excellent schooling and lots of reading. Back in high school my siblings took to calling me “Webster,” after Noah of dictionary fame. They saw it as a way to make fun of me; I wore it as a badge of honor.
So I was taken a bit aback to see a tweet this morning from @McCormickProf that referred to “snollygosters.” What the heck is a snollygoster?
Now the Prof in question is Robert George. He’s a Princeton guy with a long and impressive resume, so smart is to be expected. But a word I’d never even heard of? How could this be?
I resorted to the real Webster for help. A snollygoster, it turns out, is “a shrewd, unprincipled person.” It seems especially to be used as an epithet applied to politicians who are in public office for personal gain, not to advocate for a coherent set of principles.
Snollygoster. Now you know. Thanks to @McCormickProf for expanding my vocabulary by one very good word that unfortunately describes too many who hold high office.