[Ads-l] bunkum = 'nonsense' (1838)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 18 13:01:22 EST 2017

Ben and all: There is a great citation that gives an origin story here:

12 Jun 1834
Vicksburg Whig (Vicksburg, Mississippi)


On Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 11:05 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> While "bunkum" is widely believed to be derived from an 1820 speech by
> a congressman from Buncombe County, NC (he was "speaking to/for
> Buncombe"), the 'nonsense' meaning of "buncombe"/"bunkum" didn't
> develop until later. The OED2 entry (which hasn't been updated since
> 1888!) has the meaning 'political claptrap' from 1850 with pure
> 'humbug' attested later. Merriam-Webster gives a first date of 1845
> for "bunkum," and the Online Etymology Dictionary says 1841.
> Here's an example from 1838 (via Newspapers.com).
> Wyoming [Pa.] Republican and Farmer's Herald, May 16, 1838, p. 3, col. 1
> It is not to be expected of us that in dealing fairly with this
> people, we are afraid of our own shadow, and must talk _Bunkum_ like
> our neighbor, sound and fury signifying nothing.
> (As HDAS notes, "bunkum" could also mean 'excellent' around the same
> time, just to confuse matters.)
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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