the early days of "baloney"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri May 3 18:13:45 UTC 2013

JL, what do you think of the Jan. 23, 1922 cite from the Evening
World? Would you say it antedates the 'hogwash' meaning and takes away
the coinage credit from Jack Conway? Direct link:

For the sake of completeness, here's a cite for "boloney" that doesn't
seem to fit any of the previously attested senses -- something like
'bewildered, befuddled'?

Seattle Daily Times, 11 Oct. 1924 , p. 1/1
"Today's Tides in Elliott Bay, Piloted by Captain Bob"
This Times' cross word puzzles has got me very much boloney and I'm
even trying to pick 'em out of the linoleum squares on the kitchen
Never mind the chessmen, Pauline, bring me the checkerboard.

On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 11:43 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> Nice work, B & G.
> While it is true that Witwer applied the term "baloney" to third-rate
> fighters as early as 1920, I think it would be a mistake to assume that the
> word was ever used so exclusively, particularly when Baron von Munchausen
> is called a "baloney" just two years later.  Nor am I aware that the word
> ever meant "liar" specifically. I certainly never encountered it in that
> sense, and it would be interesting if further exx. could be found.
> "Baloney" was, rather, a vaguely dismissive term for clumsy, ignorant,
> cloddish individuals.
> I suggest that the new meaning 'hogwash' came about from the dismissiveness
> of Witwer's sense (which he may or may not have invented and which appeared
> in _Collier's_, one of the nation's leading mass-circulation weeklies) and
> the familiarity of "blarney," a word that was very common in the journalism
> of that era and which, even in the '50s, was used - in my experience,
> anyway - more often in speech than it is today.
> On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 11:24 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole wrote:
>> Great article, Ben. You found some wonderful early citations for boloney.
>> The Language Log post and Ben's article referenced the fun 1926 saying
>> about slicing "bolognie". The discovery of this citation was announced
>> on this very list back in 2010. The citation was later added to
>> Barry's fine webpage and the seminal reference work The Dictionary of
>> Modern Proverbs.
>> Here is some additional text from the 1926 citation.
>> [ref] 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)[/ref]
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> "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.
>> [End excerpt
>> My data file from 2010 has a cite that might help illustrate the
>> semantic transition. In 1920 and 1921 baloney was used to label an
>> oafish boxer as Ben notes. In the following example "big baloney" is
>> used to label another type of person: a liar.
>> [ref] 1922 October, The Mentor, Volume 23, Number 12, The Gopher Boys
>> by M.S.H., Start Page 23, Quote Page 23, Edited and printed by inmates
>> of the Massachusetts State Prison at Charlestown. (Google Books full
>> view)[/ref]
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> They get me cuckoo, with their tales of junk; which ain't truth, but
>> just colossal bunk! Old Munchausen copped the Liar's prize, but he was
>> a big baloney, and I can open your eyes!
>> [End excerpt]
>> Regarding the introductory sentence of Ben's excellent column: The
>> article at Inside Higher Ed stated that Professor Bass was supportive
>> of the administration position and critical of some fellow faculty, I
>> think. The term "bologna" (with the odd spelling) was used by Bass to
>> label the stance or rationale of some faculty and not the
>> administration.
>> On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 2:37 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>> >
>> > My new Word Routes column is on how "baloney" came to mean "nonsense"
>> > in the 1920s -- including some freshly discovered examples from
>> > newspaper articles and comic strips:
>> >
>> >

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