Mum's the Word

A bribe is a bribe by any name—and the more euphemistic the name for it, the better. Baksheesh, currently in wide use in the Middle East, is a Persian word that is also found in Turkish and Arabic. It actually means a tip or gratuity given by a boss to his underling. The word was first used extensively to mean a bribe in connection with the money that a new sultan gave his troops. In most Spanish-speaking countries, el soborno means a payoff, but in Mexico payola is aptly described as the bite (la mordida).

The Germans call it Schmiergeld (grease money),...

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