Q. Is it true that "bafflegab" was coined during World War II to describe the doublespeak engaged in by the War department?A. It was actually "gobbledygook," a precursor - and synonym - of bafflegab, that was created during World War II. In early 1944 former U.S. Congressman Maury Maverick of Texas wrote a memo instructing employees of the Smaller War Plants Corporation, of which he was head, to "abandon gobbledygook and write English." Shortly afterwards, in an article in The New York Times Magazine, he defined the word as "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved" or "merely long . . . with repetition over and over again." Maveric's epiphany occurred in an exasperating encounter with regulations written up by the Office of Price Stabilization. Smith wasn't out to change the way Washington worked - merely determined to find a catchy moniker for "the utter incomprehensibility, ambiguity, verbosity and complexity of government regulations." He toyed with several possibilities, like "burobabble," "legalprate," and "gabalia," before settling on bafflegab.
A flurry of newspaper articles appeared that same year indicating that Merriam-Webster editors were "definitely considering" the new word for dictionary entry. But in the end bafflegab made much slower progress than gobbledygook had. It took until 1981 for the word to look like it was really here to stay - and to finally gain entry in the dictionary - as a synonym of gobbledygook.
Q. Where did the word "ritzy" come from?
A. Ritzy comes from the Ritz hotels, named for their founder, Cesar Ritz. Cesar Ritz opened the first Ritz hotels in London and Paris in 1905. He had built his reputation in the luxury hotel business with positions in fashionable European hotels and resorts where he cultivated connections with the old money of Europe and served as a guide and mentor to the nouveaux riches of America. After managing the new Savoy Hotel in London, Ritz opened his own luxury hotels, and his son carried on the tradition by opening Ritz hotels around the world. Quickly, Ritz became synonymous with elegance, grandeur and palatial living.
Within a few years of the founding of the hotels in Paris and London, "the Ritz" became a well-known symbol of opulence. In fact, F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1922 titled one of his stories about the Jazz Age "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz." Even today, people will disparage their own humble residences with comparisons to the Ritz.
Cesar Ritz's most enduring legacy to the language is, of course, ritzy. The word ritzy embodies everything that the Ritz Hotels actually were and everything they symbolized. For some, ritzy is synonymous with "luxurious," "opulent," and "elegant." For others, it suggests "fashionable," "exclusive," and "classy." The extravagant luxury of the Ritz Hotels moves others to equate ritzy with "ostentatious," "showy," "flashy," and "glitzy." When applied to persons, ritzy tends to equal "pretentious."