Quote: No matter how thin you slice it: bologna (antedating 1926 May 9, attrib Al Smith 1928 Jul 22)

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 8 23:44:08 UTC 2010

The politician Al Smith has long been associated with the saying "No
matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney". In 2004 there was a
discussion on the ADS list about Al Smith, phoney, baloney, and this
phrase. Sam Clements presented a citation in the Los Angeles Times
dated 1927 September 26 in which the phrase is attributed to Gene


Wikitionary has an entry for the expression that it labels a proverb.
A 1933 citation is given.


Recently Barry Popik created an entry for this saying. The earliest
cite he gives is dated 1927 and it appears in the Historical
Dictionary of American Slang:

1927 in Robinson Comics 67: That's a lotta baloney! An' no matter how
you slice it it's still baloney!


Below is a 1926 article in the Baltimore Sun that reviews contemporary
slang and asserts the following: When a flapper of the 1920s era
wishes to tell her boyfriend that he is speaking nonsense she simply
says "No matter how thin you slice it". The word bologna is left out
of the saying because it is already well known that the phrase refers
to bologna, i.e., nonsense.

Cite: 1926 May 9, The Sun, "No Matter How Thin You Slice It": Gab Of
Collegiate Papas And Self And Self-Starting Flappers Is Always
"Bolognie" Anyhow And In Sort Of Code by Katherine Scarborough, Page
MS1, Baltimore, Maryland. (ProQuest)

   "No matter how thin you slice it." Which, as every flapper knows,
is merely bologna (pronounced "bolognie") served in the grand manner.
   It is a subtle, trenchant and convincing expression which the young
person with one earring uses to inform her collegiate papa that his
best line is sound and fury, signifying nothing.
   For "bolognie" is to the slang of the moment what applesauce was to
the vocabularies of yesteryear.

The saying is attributed to Alfred E. Smith (Al Smith) in 1928. More
precisely, the belief is attributed to Al Smith.

Cite: 1928 July 22, The Sunday Morning Star (The Delmarvia Star),
Twinkles, Page 12 (GNA Page 7), Column 6, Wilmington, Delaware.
(Google News archive)

Al Smith says he will pose for no boloney pictures. He believes
boloney is boloney no matter how thin you slice it.

Variant spellings: bologna, bolognie, baloney, boloney, balony, bolony
Note HDAS has baloney n.: an oafish, stupid, or clumsy person … First
cite 1920 June 5.
baloney: humbug, pretentious nonsense; foolishness. First cite 1922 June 30.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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