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A scouting boondoggle


Coined by Robert H. Link, American scout, 1929; alternatively “boon doggle”.[1] Compare woggle of similar sense, attested in same period.

In sense of “wasteful government program”, popularized in 1935 by The New York Times, in reference to New Deal programs which were claimed to feature people making such braids.[2]



boondoggle (plural boondoggles)

  1. (especially scouting) A braided ring to hold a neckerchief.
    Synonym: woggle
  2. (Canada, US, figuratively, usually politics) A waste of time and/or money; a pointless activity.
    Coordinate term: white elephant
    Opponents consider this another billion-dollar government boondoggle.
    • 2005, Nicholas Johnson, “Chapter 3 Notes”, in Big Dead Place, →ISBN:
      By its strictest definition, a boondoggle is a recreational trip out of town, but it has been blurred by threadbare jokes to mean any trip that is desirable, whether for work or not.
    • 2014 November 6, Rob Nixon, “Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’”, in New York Times[2]:
      Klein dismantles the boondoggle that is cap and trade.
    • 2019 May 2, “Iter, a reactor in France, may deliver fusion power as early as 2045”, in The Economist[3], →ISSN:
      For cynics, it is a boondoggle plagued by delays (it began in 2007 and was supposed to begin experiments in 2016, but this will not now happen until 2025), questionable management and ballooning costs (double the original estimate).



boondoggle (third-person singular simple present boondoggles, present participle boondoggling, simple past and past participle boondoggled)

  1. (intransitive) To waste time on a pointless activity.


  1. ^ Michael Quinion (1996–2023), “Boondoggle”, in World Wide Words.
  2. ^ “$3,187,000 relief is spent to teach jobless to play; $19,658,512 voted for April; 'Boon Doggles' Made”, in New York Times[1], 1935-04-04

Further reading[edit]