This Week in Words: Bogosity

Bogosity has been around long enough to have appeared in ASCII files, if not cuneiform tablets. Hackers have long used the word to connote phoniness, i.e., “my bogosity meter just went off.”

When did Oxford professors start using the word? And why would the answer be of any interest? While researching another post, I discovered to my surprise that everyone’s favorite Professor of Anglo-Saxon, J.R.R. Tolkien, used the word in his February 1968 letter to composer Donald Swann. Commenting unhappily about the BBC documentary, Tolkien in Oxford, Tolkien said:

I am impressed by the complete ‘bogosity’ of the whole performance. The producer, a very nice, very young man and personally equipped with some intelligence and insight, was nonetheless already so muddled and confused by BBCism that the last thing in the world he wished to show was me as I am/or was, let alone ‘human or lifesize’.

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