Have you ever had to use a word over and over for some reason and found yourself suddenly giggling because it doesn’t look like a word anymore? Baffle. Baffle, baffle, baffle. Bafflebafflebafflebafflebaffle… Yeah. That phenomenon is called semantic satiation. Today’s word is brought to you by reactive inhibition due to rapid repetition.
I usually think of “baffle” as meaning more or less “confuse” or “dumbfound.” It has a less common connotation meaning “impede.” Isn’t that wonderful? Of course to confuse someone is fairly effective in tripping them up at times, so it just works for me that there’s a word to bring the ideas together.
What I love ever more, however, are the origins the AHCD proposes for “baffle.” The history isn’t entirely clear, but the AHCD suggests that the word is a blend of the Scottish Gaelic bauchle (to denounce) and the French bafouer (to ridicule). So there’s another idea to throw into the mix. You mock someone, which gets in their way, which ultimately leads to their confusion.
Lovely, rich word, isn’t it?