Jun 5, 2009


[Note: updated on 8.6.2010]

What is a boondoggle?

Originally, the word meant a hand-made household or otherwise practical item, such as a key chain.  But during the New Deal, the meaning of the word changed: When a teacher with the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (a predecessor to the WPA) testified that he taught people how to make boondoggles, the media pounced on the word, and the meaning changed to what we know today: a project, often of government, that wastes time and resources.

What’s the significance?

Since the New Deal, boondoggle has been a populist criticism leveled by conservatives at everything from wasteful spending to blatant errors, usually by the local, state or national government.  The online mega-dictionary Wordnik statistical analyses word usage; it found that boondoggle was popular in the 1930s and 1940s, faded out completely, and has only recently made a  comeback.

Who’s Talking About It?

Rush Limbaugh has decided that Chevy's new all-electric vehicle, the Volt, is boondoogle...Ed Lasky at American Thinker thinks the GOP was bribed to support "Dem boondoggle" that prevents teacher layoffs...Phil Levy of the American Enterprise Institute, writing in his Foreign Policy blog, refers to "the GM boondoggle" when raising concerns about the Obama administration's plans for the auto sector....Indiana Tribune Star columnist Arthur Foulkes says government can't create wealth and workers should beware "the 'green jobs' boondoggle"....Pacific Press's Tom Burghardt denounces the administration's cyber security plan as "a corporatist boondoggle"....And, over at Golf Digest, "the myth of the elitist boondoggle has been exposed as exactly that."  Which myth?  The one about golf being too elitist for the President to be associated with it.  (For those keeping score, that means Obama can be honorary chair of the PGA President's Cup in October.  Phew.)

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