Brigands are in no condition to be suckered by truncated fun

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A WORD IN THE HAND: CON

Brigands are in no condition to be suckered by truncated fun

A column to satisfy your inner grammar nerd

Deputy features editor: Sunday Times

In these days of epidemic (not endemic) corruption, it seems odd that the truncated word “con” has fallen out of use. Perhaps it is because con (short for confidence trick) sounds too innocent to be applied to massive fraud, and “a con man” is perhaps too gentle and artful a description for one who misappropriates funds with sweeping insouciance.

Con man is an abbreviation of “confidence man”, a person who gains your confidence in order to swindle you. The term began to be used in American English in the 1850s and gained traction after the 1923 publication of Edward H Smith’s book, Confessions of a Confidence Man: A Handbook for Suckers.

Con may no longer be fashionable as a word for fraudsters, but it is still used as an abbreviation for convicts, particularly in the case of “ex-cons”. (“Conscript”, however, does not mean a letter penned by a prisoner.)..

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