1935, American English, of uncertain origin, popularized during the New Deal as a contemptuous word for make-work projects for the unemployed. Said to have been a pioneer word for "gadget;" it also was by 1932 a Boy Scout term for a kind of woven braid.
: The public's got the idea that this is a boondoggle, a Rube Goldberg
To spend public funds outlandishly or on futile activity
[mid-1930s+; origin uncertain; verb said to be fr the iron-smelting industry, meaning ''make unprofitable attempts to retrieve good iron from slag''; noun found by 1940s meaning ''an ornamental thong made by Boy Scouts'' and suggesting mere make-work]