I am very much indebted to my lovely new sister Clare for introducing me to the word snollygoster.
A snollygoster, for those who don't know, is an unprincipled throttlebottom.
Word To Use Today: snollygoster. No one is sure where this word came from (except mid-1800s USA). It describes a clever but unscrupulous person, usually a politician, devoted to his own private gain. The word snallygoster probably derives from the German schnelle Geister, fast ghost, and describes a vast and terrifying monster, half reptile, half bird, which was invented to frighten ex-slaves out of voting. A connection between snallygoster and snollygoster must be likely.
A throttlebottom is a harmlessly useless person who holds public office. This word, also American, is the name of a character in the musical comedy Of Thee I Sing (1931) by George S Kaufman and Morris Ryskind.