Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bamboozled with Skuldugery

The New Mexican looks for a "Quote of the Day" during legislative sessions. We don't do that for interim committee meetings, but if we did, yesterday would have provided a doozy.

At yesterday's Legislative Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, perked up everyone's ears when he accused the state Human Services Department of "skulduggery."

 “I’m more confused, baffled and bamboozled today more than any time in the past several months. This is the greatest extent of skulduggery I’ve witnessed in decades.”

Special props to the senator for fitting "bamboozled" and "skulduggery" into one sentence. I was just disappointed that he didn't call anyone a "rapscallion" or "ne'r-do-well." Or perhaps talk about "dastardly deeds" and the dastards who commit them.

I looked up "skulduggery on World Wide Words, and it turns out it's hardly the first time it's been used in the context of state politics:

This means underhand or unscrupulous behaviour or trickery. ... The first recorded instance appeared in 1867 in Beyond the Mississippi by Albert D Richardson: “From Minnesota had been imported the mysterious term ‘scull-duggery’, used to signify political or other trickery”. ...

The word was still mysterious a few years later. One of its very early sightings is in this splendid political exchange, which I have gleaned from the Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Third Constitutional Convention of Ohio, 1873-1874:
Mr. WEST. It is urged upon the assumption that there has been what some gentlemen here have characterized as “smouzling”.
Mr. HOADLY. What is that?
Mr. WEST. Skulduggery.
Mr. HOADLY. Well, what does that mean?
Mr. WEST. I do not know what it means, but that is what I heard talked about here.

I think Mr. Hoadly was bamboozled.

My story about yesterday's LFC meeting and a scathing report on the behavioral health situation that prompted Cisneros' remark is HERE.