Tag Archives: F

Finagle

Standard

Finagle \fə-ˈnā-gəl\

transitive verb: to obtain by indirect or involved means; to obtain by trickery

intransitive verb: to use devious or dishonest methods to achieve one’s ends

This may be quite a dorky thing to admit, but I love that this can be either a transitive or intransitive verb. In other words, you can use it with a direct object, as in:

Toby finagled that coffee from Steve; don’t drink it!

Here, “that coffee” is the direct object of the sentence: Toby, the subject, “did” the verb, finagle, to it, so finaglehere functions as a transitive verb. It could be rewritten

Toby obtained the coffee from Steve by trickery; don’t drink it!” and the meaning would remain the same. Steve was just a passive victim of Toby’s finagling prowess. Compare that to:

Looks like Toby finagled  Steve out of his coffee. Let’s drink it!

The difference here–besides Steve’s suddenly much less sympathetic (or more coffee-crazed) friends, that is–is in the sentence structure: the verb is still finagle, but there is no direct object. Toby did not “obtain Steve by trickery,” he obtained the coffee by tricking Steve. Poor Steve was the victim again, but this time at least we get that outright: re-writing this sentence would look like

Looks like Toby tricked Steve out of his coffee. Let’s drink it!” which, while not nice, is at least correct.

Annnd look at that, I’m now using this blog as a platform for mini grammar lessons. Hm.

But let’s not forget about our lovely word, finagle! I can finagle my way into the Olympics (if only); I can finagle my dog into trying to catch a nonexistent ball; I can be finagled into voting for someone I don’t agree with. (But hopefully I won’t be.)

And then there’s the loveliness of its origin! I’m going younger and younger on my words, apparently; this one’s from 1924/1926, depending on your source, and comes from straight up American English! There are theories that it came from English dialect fainaigue, meaning to cheat at cards, or else figgle/fiddle, meaning to fidget.

Here’s hoping you don’t get finagledby anyone in the near future, and that you find new and exciting ways to finagle your way into new and exciting places! And, maybe don’t let anyone named Toby near your coffee. Especially if you’re named Steve.