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a con

Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 5:35 pm
by tony h
It's a con!

But what exactly is a con and how did it come about? Maybe it will require a more assiduous etymologist than me to answer that properly. I will however uncover some of the fascination with the multifaceted three letters that spell con.

The OED lists con as originally being a variant of can. A word that leads us to many things especially amongst the canny Scots. The phrase "to con thanks" or "to can thanks" or, more simply "to thank".
Here "con" seems to have an element of "knowing". ie "to con thanks" to "to know my thanks" or "to know thanks will come to them".
Moving on "con" means to learn (againg the element of "knowing"). I remember conning the French Irregulars, long since forgotten, until I could receit them with ease. Or this one: 1972 Times 20 May 5/6 The minister's decision was afterwards to be conned over word by word and letter by letter to see if he had in any way misdirected himself.
Then there is a sea faring usage. To con a ship is to order the steering. Particularly, if not always, when it is done remotely. The captain may be up on the mast, to get a better view, shouting orders to the helmsman. Or later in the tin ships, or submarines, in the conning tower.
Also, apparantly used of people in an advantageous observation position guiding boats to shoals of fish.

But then , of course a con has nothing to do with con. For a con is simply taken, that seems appropriate, from a "confidence trick"

Re: a con

Posted: Mon Nov 08, 2021 5:57 pm
by Erik_Kowal
The minister's decision was afterwards to be conned over word by word and letter by letter to see if he had in any way misdirected himself.
In my mind's eye I can already picture Boris at the dispatch box during Prime Minister's Question Time, responding to an allegation of bare-faced lying from the leader of the Opposition:

"My right honourable friend is of course entitled to his opinion. Bwuh — bwuh! Yai — yai — I would just like to point out that these so-called ”hard facts" he mentions are by no means hard and fast — set in stone, as it were. But if I have been guilty of misdirecting myself — and I stress the word if — it was entirely understandable, given the confusion that surrounds the issue, even by experts".

And so on.

"Misdirecting oneself" is thus a handy old euphemism for "lying through one's teeth" that politicians can resurrect for the purposes of obfuscation and excuse-making.

I look forward to seeing it used again in the wild now that you have drawn my attention to it, Tony. 😉

Re: a con

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2021 12:08 am
by tony h
Erik_Kowal wrote: Mon Nov 08, 2021 5:57 pm
"Misdirecting oneself" is thus a handy old euphemism for "lying through one's teeth" that politicians can resurrect for the purposes of obfuscation and excuse-making.
I took the phrase at face value. I believe it was referring to the advice given by ministers that would end with the abdication of Edward VIII and his banishment from these isles. Because the consequences would be monumental the advice was gone over again and again in great detail to ensure that it was correctly made. There was no sense of ministers' lying.

PS I know it happens here, but I wish we didn't have modern politics brought into the discussion.

Re: a con

Posted: Tue Nov 09, 2021 4:00 am
by Erik_Kowal
An interesting twist which appears to undercut my assumption that "to misdirect oneself" is a euphemism for lying.

Thanks for the extra info.