Word of the Day: Malarkey

Word of the Day

Today’s word of the day, thanks to Julia McCoy’s article, “34 of the Craziest Words in English” (https://expresswriters.com/34-craziest-words-english/), is malarkey. She says, “This refers to words that are insincere and talk that is particularly foolish. This is a word that we can thank the 1920s and 19030s for and it is still used by many people. It is a fun word to say, as well.” According to www.dictionary.com, the noun means, “speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress; bunkum.” According to www.etymonline.com, it means “lies and exaggerations, humbug,” and is first noted in English in “1924, American English, of unknown origin.” The website also says that the word is also an Irish surname, so it is possible that the word actually originated as a kind of slur. But in October of 2012, R. L. G., writing on the Johnson blog of The Economist, “Early American citations originate in Wisconsin, Indiana and San Francisco, not the most heavily Irish cities of Boston and New York. Did Irish influence on American English really spread that far that fast?”

But Ben Zimmer of Visual Thesaurus wrote October 12, 2012, “The word malarkey, meaning ‘insincere or exaggerated talk,’ originally found favor in Irish-American usage, though its exact origin remains unknown. We can likely thank a cartoonist of Irish descent, Thomas Aloysius Dorgan (“TAD” for short), for popularizing the word…. When Dorgan began using the word, its spelling wasn’t settled. In a cartoon of his that appeared on Mar. 9, 1922, the word Milarkey was used as a fictitious place name. Two years later, on April 2, 1924, he used the word Malachy, apparently with its nonsense meaning (‘Malachy – You said it – I wouldn’t trust a lawyer no further than I could throw a case of Scotch’) (https://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/where-did-biden-get-his-bunch-of-malarkey/).

The discussion of malarkey came up in October of 2012 because then-Vice President Joe Biden used the word in a debate he had with Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan: “First, in responding to Ryan’s criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of last month’s attacks in Benghazi, he told Ryan, ‘With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.’ And then later, Biden euphemistically called Ryan’s rhetoric ‘a bunch of stuff’ before clarifiying [sic], ‘We Irish call it malarkey’” (ibid).

Joe Biden is now running for the Democratic nomination to run for president of the USA against Donald Trump. Things have not been going well for Biden—he finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses, and then he finished fifth in the New Hampshire primary. This is Biden’s third attempt at winning the Democratic nomination. He ran in 1988, but he dropped out of that race over charges of plagiarism—he plagiarized a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock. He also ran in 2008 against Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but he dropped out after a poor showing in Iowa.

Biden has called himself “a gaffe machine” (a gaffe is a “social blunder,” according to www.dictionary.com). There is an article on the Newsweek segment about all his gaffes. Here’s a sampling (https://www.newsweek.com/joe-biden-gaffes-quotes-2020-election-1323905):

At an Illinois campaign rally in 2008, Biden said: “This election year, the choice is clear. One man stands to deliver change we desperately need. A man I’m proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next president of the United States—Barack America!”

In 2009, Politico reported that Biden was overheard making this comment to the then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko: “I cannot believe that a French man visiting Kiev went back home and told his colleagues he discovered something and didn’t say he discovered the most beautiful women in the world. That’s my observation.”

In a 2012 speech on foreign policy, Biden praised President Obama’s approach to diplomacy.

“Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ End of quote,” Biden said. “I promise you, the president has a big stick.”

At [a] reception for … Enda Kenny in 2012, Biden said, “You know there’s an old Irish saying, there’s all kinds of old Irish sayings.

“My grandfather Finnegan, I think he made them up. But uh, it says, may the hinges of our friendship never go rusty.

“Well, with these two folks that you’re about to meet if you haven’t already, there’s no doubt about them staying oiled and lubricated here, ladies and gentlemen.”

In the current campaign, Biden said “at an Asian and Latino Coalition Town Hall and conflated low-income students with racial minorities.

‘Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids —‘Biden said, before quickly correcting himself, ‘— wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids.’”

“Biden misspoke again, saying Democrats like him choose ‘truth over facts,’ in what was muddled version of a standard campaign refrain.”

It may be that Joe Biden will win the Democratic nomination this time around, but I doubt it. You see, even without all those gaffes, Biden, like virtually all politicians, is full of malarkey.

The photo came from the L.A. Times and shows Biden getting off his bus.