Printable Version
Pronunciation: -zên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To bamboozle, hoodwink, flimflam, con, dupe, deceive, or cheat anyone, whether the offspring of our aunts and uncles or not.

Notes: As the Word History will show, the similarity in the pronunciation of today's word and cousin is not coincidental. The meanings of these two words today, of course, are quite different (depending, that is, on how well your cousins behave). Those who cozen are cozeners who engage in cozenage. The pronunciation of the latter noun is identical with that of cousinage "the state of being cousins", a coincidence many wags have taken advantage of over the years.

In Play: We have all heard teenagers say something like, "Let's go in Roger's mom's car; it is easier to cozen her out of the car keys than any of our moms." Well, we can dream about it. I would have given up my keys happily just to have heard one of my teenage sons use today's Good Word. "Prudence Pender cozened her dad out of fifty dollars by telling him it was for removing the tattoo on her forehead."

Word History: Today's Good Word is another with a mysterious history. At the time this word first found its way into print, French had a verb cousiner "to cheat on pretext of being a cousin", based on the noun cousin, the origin of English cousin. English may have borrowed this word and reduced it to cozen over the years. It is also possible that some form of the now obsolete Italian verb cozzonare "to horse-trade, bamboozle" from cozzone "horse-trader" was borrowed and customized in sound and meaning for English. The point is, there was no shortage of words sounding like cozen with similar meanings at the time. Unfortunately, we have no written evidence connecting cozen with any of them. (Of course, we will not cozen our patient readers as to who suggested today's Good Word: it was one of our constant contributors, Susan Lister.)

Dr. Goodword,

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