Bewitched, bothered, bewildered and bamboozled

Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, has carried out a review of energy companies’ pricing practices. The review found that competition is being stifled by a combination of tariff complexity, poor supplier behaviour, and lack of transparency. The Chief Executive said:

Consumers have told us that energy suppliers’ prices are too complicated. It is no surprise that they are bamboozled when tariff complexity has increased from 180 to more than 300 since 2008.

I do a lot of translation and editing work in the energy field. Few, if any, of the texts I work with come anywhere near Ofgem’s in terms of clarity and ease of understanding. But what I’m really tickled about in this press release is the use of the word “bamboozled”. Here’s the etymology, courtesy of the Online Etymology Dictionary:


1703, originally a slang or cant word, perhaps Scottish from bombaze “perplex,” related to bombast, or Fr. embabuiner “to make a fool (lit. ‘baboon’) of.” Related: Bamboozled; bamboozling.

I simply can’t imagine any of my institutional clients in Italy using an equivalent Italian word in their literature. And here’s a question for Italian-speakers: what would that equivalent be? Let us know in the comments!

By Marian Dougan

Published by Marian Dougan

Marian is a translator and editor (specialising in web content) currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. Marian previously lived in Italy for over 20 years, working as a language teacher, translator and policy analyst with the British Embassy in Rome. A qualified member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and its Italian-language and ITI Scotnet networks, she is currently Scotnet's Convenor and Deputy Webmaster. From 2003 to 2006 Marian taught translation skills at the Italian Department of Glasgow University and now gives Master Classes as part of the new Masters in Translation Studies course. She also conducts web-writing and usability workshops to help people improve their websites and communicate more effectively with their readers, users and customers. In September 2014 Marian obtained User Experience Certification, with specialisation in Web Design, from the Nielsen Norman Group. She loves language, especially English, and is convinced that learning languages opens up people’s minds and horizons (and increases their brainpower!). To share her enthusiasm, she advises schools and educational authorities on language skills and enterprise. She gives talks to pupils on how to combine language studies with other subjects and so enhance their potential and increase their career options. Marian is an active member of organisations such as: Scottish Council Development and Industry (SCDI); Association of Scottish Businesswomen; Dunbartonshire Chamber of Commerce and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Scotland. She also loves architecture, design, fashion (British Vogue!), cities and chocolate. She’s a great fan of Twitter and you can also find her on Linkedin.

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  1. Haha 😉
    I would go for either ‘perplesso’, a bocca aperta or for the real thing that I assumed translates ‘bamboozled’ better: ‘imbambolati’ (from ‘bambola’). We could also assume the customers feel ‘ripped-off’ so one may want to use ‘abbindolati’. But that would mean changing/rearranging the sentence or it’s meaning a bit.

  2. I’d translate as “presi in giro”, to me ” since to me bamboozled in this context suggests “cheated”, “ripped off”, “tricked” “deceieved” rather than puzzled or confused.


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