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In its earliest English uses, "pettifogger" was two separate words: "pettie fogger." "Pettie" was a variant spelling of "petty," a reasonable inclusion in a word for someone who is disreputable and small-minded. But why "fogger"? It may come from "Fugger," the name of a successful family of 15th- and 16th-century German merchants and financiers. Germanic variations of "fugger" were used for the wealthy and avaricious, as well as for hucksters. In English, a "pettie fogger" was originally a small-time operator of a shady business. We're not sure why the word came to be applied specifically to lawyers, but it appears to have initially referred to lower-status attorneys who argued the smaller, less important cases.

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