Paul Krugman (“After the Flimflam”, about Paul Ryan’s budget proposals) on the 15th in the NYT:

Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man.

… Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier.

Some nice morphology.

Start with flimflam or flim-flam, which has been around for some time. Its etymology in the OED is speculative:

One of the many onomatopoeic reduplications with vowel variation expressive of contempt; compare fidfad, skimble-skamble, whimwham. Possibly based on a Scandinavian word which may have existed in some English dialects; compare Old Norse flim a lampoon, flimska mockery, flimta to flout.

Cites, in several senses, go back to the 16th century:

1. A piece of nonsense or idle talk; a trifle, a conceit. [from 1546]

2. A paltry attempt at deception; a contemptible trick or pretence; a piece of humbug. [from c1538]

3. collect. Nonsense, rubbish; humbug, deception. [from 1570]

It has been verbed since at least 1660.

Dictionaries seem not to have the derived adjective flimflammy, but it’s transparent semantically. From that we go on to the comparative flimflammier.

(A note about lexicography. You might think that the base forms of derivative lexemes would have to precede their other inflectional forms, but there’s no reason to think that should be so; other inflected forms are just as good evidence for the derivative lexeme as the base form would be. Krugman wouldn’t have to have used, or even heard, flimflammy to come up with flimflammier.)


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