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Post by Archived Topic » Fri Jun 04, 2004 3:22 pm

where does this come from?
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Post by Archived Reply » Fri Jun 04, 2004 3:37 pm

Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:

FLIMFLAM or FLIM-FLAM noun, verb

Etymology: probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse ‘flim,’ ‘flîm’ mockery; akin to Norwegian ‘flire’ to giggle, Swedish (dial.) 'flira'

1 a) freak, trifle, conceit b) deception, trick, especially a trick (as in making change) by which one is swindled

2) trifling, nonsense, deceptive humbug


FLIMFLAMS: to subject to a flimflam: trick; ‘sometimes' swindle

Random House Unabridged Dictionary:

FLIMFLAM noun, verb, -flammed, -flamming. ‘Informal.’

1) a trick or deception, esp. a swindle or confidence game involving skillful persuasion or clever manipulation of the victim.

2) a piece of nonsense; twaddle; bosh.

3) to trick, deceive, swindle, or cheat: ‘A fortuneteller flimflammed her out of her savings.’
[1530–40; gradational compound of expressive origin]

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang:

FLIM-FLAM: noun 1) [mid 16th cent.] an idle tale, a piece of nonsense. 2) [late 19th cent.] (originating in U.S.) a confidence trick, a criminal hoax

FLIM-FLAM: verb [late 19th cent.] (U.S.) to perpetrate a confidence trick or hoax

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

FLIM-FLAM: a deception or fraud, trick <"When I counted the money, I realized I'd been flimflammed into exchanging a fifty dollar bill for a mere twenty dollars worth of smaller bills.">

English is full of words concerned with trickery and deception, ranging from the colorful ‘flimflam,’ ‘ bamboozle,’ and ‘hornswoggle’ to the more mundane ‘deceive,’ ‘ mislead,’ and ‘delude.’ ‘ flimflam’ entered English as a noun meaning ‘deception’ or ‘fraud’ in the mid-16th century. The verb use was established about 100 years later [this is not in agreement with Cassell’s, above]. In addition to the general meaning of deceiving or tricking, ‘flimflam’ is often used specifically to refer to swindling someone out of money. The ultimate origin of ‘flimflam’ is uncertain, but the word is probably of Scandinavian origin and may be related to the Old Norse ‘flim,’ meaning ‘mockery.’

FLIMFLAM falls into a category of words called compound gradational nouns which are produced by a process which some have dubbed ‘reduplication.’ These compound gradational nouns fall into several categories:

1) start with the same letter, similar spelling, but switch vowel in second word (gewgaw, dribs and drabs, tit for tat, mishmash, ticktock, fiddle-faddle, dilly dally, wishy-washy, ding-dong, tip-top, pishposh, chitchat, fiddle-faddle, zigzag, flipflop, hip-hop, singsong, dingdong (onomatopoea for sound of bell; or penis), wigwag, rickrack (zigzag trim on clothing, capitalized is name of cigarette rolling paper), riprap (crude wall of stones), ticktack (repetitive sound), shilly-shally (prevaricate), knick-knack, splish-splash, bric-a-brac, ship-shape, spic and span, ying-yang (as in ‘up the wazoo’); and the less pure seesaw, heehaw, teetor-totter, jimjams

2) start with different letter, similar spelling: razzle-dazzle, okey-dokey, roly-poly, hobnob, hodgepodge, hanky-panky, heebie-jeebies, namby-pamby, helter-skelter, hurry-scurry, pell-mell, pop-top, hurdy-gurdy, ding-a-ling, razzmatazz (or razzamatazz)

3) pure repeats: frou-frou (frills, ribbons), Mau-Mau, dum-dum, mahi-mahi, dik-dik (antelope), din-din (supper), Baden-Baden (area in Germany)

4) tiplets word series: Winken, Blinken, and Nod; Hickory, Dickory, Dock; Bibbity, Bobbity, Boo

Note: This is probably more than most people want to know about this kind of stuff, but I think they are fun and I collected these words over a period of years. The names of the four categories are arbitrary and not sure I'm not sure if there are any official names for them.

Ken G - March 26, 2002
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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