What is a snake oil salesman?

I heard it on The Daily Show the other night, but I wasn't sure what it meant.


I did Google it, but I didn't really find what I was looking for.

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    Snake oil salesman refers to someone trying to get you to buy into something that is supposed to help or do something good but really is nothing at all like that. In fact, it may even be harmful.

    The old medicine salesmen used to sell snake oil as a curative, as a health benefit, when it of course did nothing of the sort.

    Snake oil is a fake, it doesn,t do what the guy says it will. They are like those guys on infomercials you see on late night tv. Those people are the modern equivalent of the snakeoil salesmen, the old traveling medicine men.

    And key to the whole thing is that the salesman knows very well that what he is selling is completely useless, and even harmful. It isn't like he is naive or misguided, he knows the line he is feeding is bull.

    A lot of politician would make good snakeoil salesmen, I think.

  • guo
    Lv 4
    3 years ago

    Snake Oil Salesman

  • 4 years ago

    This Site Might Help You.


    What is a snake oil salesman?

    I heard it on The Daily Show the other night, but I wasn't sure what it meant.

    Source(s): snake oil salesman: https://biturl.im/ZMH7B
  • 1 decade ago

    A phoney person trying to get over on others.

    Snake oil is a traditional Chinese medicine used to treat joint pain. However, the most common usage of the phrase is as a derogatory term for compounds offered as medicines which implies that they are fake, fraudulent, quackish, or ineffective. The expression is also applied metaphorically to any product with exaggerated marketing, but questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit.

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  • Alnisa
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    One of the best snake oil salesman since PT Barnum.

  • 1 decade ago

    In the time it took you to ask this question and post it, you could've found it as easily as I did:

    Chinese labourers on railroad gangs — involved in building the Transcontinental Railroad to link North America coast to coast — gave snake oil to Europeans with joint pain. When rubbed on the skin at the painful site, snake oil was claimed to bring relief. This claim was ridiculed by rival medicine salesmen, especially those selling patent medicines. In time, snake oil became a generic name for many compounds marketed as panaceas or miraculous remedies, whose ingredients were usually secret, unidentified, or mis-characterized — and mostly inert or ineffective, although the placebo effect might provide some relief for whatever the problem might have been.

    Patented snake oil remedies actually originated in England, where a patent was granted to Richard Stoughton's Elixir in 1712.[2] Since there was no Federal regulation in the USA concerning safety and effectiveness of drugs until the 1906 Food and Drugs Act,[3] and various medicine salesmen or manufacturers seldom had enough skills in analytical chemistry to analyze the contents of snake oil, it became the archetype of hoax. American snake fats have EPA contents markedly lower than those of the Chinese water snake. Thus the American snake oils were even less effective in relieving joint pain than the original Chinese snake oil — further promoting the hoax stereotype.

    The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a travelling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence, typically bogus. To enhance sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a "shill") would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would prudently leave town before his customers realized that they had been cheated. This practice is also called "grifting" and its practitioners "grifters".

    Source(s): Wikipedia.org Snake Oil
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