According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Snollygoster originated as a combination of two German words: schnelle geister, meaning “quick spirits”.

The schnelle geister was meant to be a ghastly, monstrous ghost of sorts who scared children. It gradually evolved in early US history to mean a giant bird that may grab children.

Somehow it morphed over the years and began being used as to scare slaves away from voting once they had rights. The slaves were threatened with a giant reptile like bird would cruise in and steal their children if they voted.

By the 19th Century, snollygoster was being used to define “calculatingly dubious people.” Today, the Oxford English Dictionary defines snollygoster as “a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician”.

Snollygoster is thrown around in political circles referring to politicians who are not interested in helping their constiuency but rather are driven by personal gain of wealth (Think Rod Blagojevich).

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