Monday, May 16, 2016


Fred asked about the word foist. It shows up in settings such as this: “Don’t let them foist their shoddy goods on you.” In this sense, it means to palm off or surreptitiously force items on someone.

“To palm off” is quite accurate because the word originally meant to conceal a token in your hand or fist and then make it appear as if by magic. It later meant to practice fraud, to behave stealthily, and to introduce something inferior.

There are two other verbs spelled f-o-i-s-t, and they came from completely different sources. To foist meant to smell or grow musty, and it took its meaning from the noun meaning a wine cask.

Another foist (long obsolete) meant to break wind; the noun from which it was derived involved onomatopoeia--fssssst!  In their play The Honest Whore, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton gave this advice: “Spurne your hounds when they foiste.”

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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