In the Globe on Sunday, we had a story about the upcoming redrawing of Massachusetts' congressional districts, and the Secretary of State's desire to take control out of the state Legislature's hands:
- "Under the state constitution, the Legislature redraws the districts every 10 years based on the latest US Census figures, a highly charged and secretive process that has led to lawsuits and shenanigans and could become explosive this year if the state loses one of its 10 US House seats."
A shenanigan, of course, is:
- 1a. A deceitful trick; an underhanded act.
- 1b. Remarks intended to deceive; deceit. Often used in the plural.
- 2a. A playful or mischievous act; a prank.
- 2b. Mischief; prankishness. Often used in the plural.
But the AHD has no etymology, saying only "origin unknown." Same with the OED ("origin obscure"). So I turned to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which usually comes through when my two favorite dictionaries fail me. (Yes, you failed me. Get your act together.)
The Online Etymology Dictionary confirms that the origin of shenanigan is uncertain, but takes these stabs at it:
- "Earliest records of it are in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, U.S., in 1855. Suggestions include the Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada, meaning trick, deceit; or, less likely, the German schenigelei, peddler's argot for 'work, craft,' or the related German slang verb schinäglen. Another guess centers on the Irish sionnach, meaning 'fox.' "