Bamboozling Baboons!

This week I learnt a couple of interesting French words – embabouiner [ɑ̃] (to flatter, butter up) and embobiner [ɑ̃.bɔ] (to bamboozle).

Embabouiner combines the prefix em- and suffix -er with babouin (baboon), so you are making a baboon of someone when you flatter them [source].

Babouin comes from the Middle French babouyne, baboin, from Old French babouin, from baboue (grimace, muzzle), which is related to German dialectal word Bäppe (lips, muzzle) [source].


Embobiner means to get round (someone), to pull to wool over someone’s eyes, to bamboozle or to outfox. It can also mean to wind up, reel up/in or wrap up. It combines the same prefix and suffix as embabouiner with bobine (bobbin, reel, spool, drum), so you are winding someone on a bobbin when you bamboozle them [source].

Bobine probably comes from the Latin word balbus, (stammering, stuttering, lisping, fumbling) and is immitative of the noise of a bobbin [source].

The English word bamboozle comes from the 17th century slang word bam (to trick, to con), from the noun bam (fraudster, cheat), possibly from the French embobiner [source].

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