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

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 19 01:35:10 EST 2017

Thanks for the additional cites, Garson. Given the evidence, I think we can
trace an evolution from "speak/talk to/for Bunkum" in the late 1820s, to
"speak/talk Bunkum" (without the preposition) in the 1830s, to standalone
"bunkum" in the 1840s and beyond.

On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 12:23 AM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Below is a footnoted instance of "Bunkum" in January 1835. I think it
> is interesting because the word is not part of a phrase such as "to
> Bunkum" or "for Bunkum".
> Here "spoke Bunkum" meant "delivered a long pointless speech", I think.
> Date: Jan 10, 1835
> Correspondence of the Working Men's Advocate.
> Workingman's Advocate (1830-1836);
> New York 6.22 page 0_3
> Database: Proquest American Periodicals
> [Begin excerpt - double check]
> Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1835.
> Sir--We have nothing of any particular importance to communicate from
> either House today. After the presentation of resolutions, &c. Mr.
> Chilton resumed his remarks, and spoke Bunkum* for about three
> quarters of an hour; after which the Navy Pay Bill was again called
> up.
> [End excerpt]
> [Begin footnote]
> * Col. Johnson tells the story--A certain member from the district in
> which Bunkum, (N.C.) was included, was in the habit of making long
> speeches, to little purpose. He excused himself be saying that he was
> not speaking to the House, but to Bunkum.
> [End excerpt]
> Below is an excerpt from a speech by Richard M. Johnson. He shared an
> anecdote about the North Carolina politician Mr. Walker who first told
> his colleagues that he was speaking Bunkum.
> Date: October 19, 1836
> Newspaper: The Republican Banner (Madison Republican Banner)
> Newspaper Location: Madison, Indiana
> Quote Page 4 of 6
> Database: NewspaperArchive
> Col. Richard M. Johnson's Speech at Shelbyville
> [Begin excerpt - please double check]
> Congress is the finest place in the world to manufacture orators—not
> such as was in Greece and Rome—not such as Demosthenes, but they make
> long speeches; and why? Because they fear the people—there they speak
> to Bunkum. I will tell you what that means—they speak not to Congress
> but to the people. . . .
> In Congress they make long-winded speeches—I do not like such long
> speeches, but I will give you the anecdote about Bunkum.
> A Mr. Walker was elected to Congress from North Carolina, and Bunkum
> was a county in his District. He was a plebian, like myself; we used
> to talk together. He was elected by the casting vote of the sheriff.
> He made but one speech at each session of Congress, and no matter what
> was before the House, he spoke about the revolution. I asked him why
> he did so—he said he was not speaking to Congress, but to Bunkum and
> ever since that time, when such speeches are made, they are said to be
> for Bunkum. I have myself spoken to Bunkum; and why do we make such
> speeches? Because we fear you.—You have the power at the polls, when
> you vote—there is your power and we fear it, and it is right that you
> should have the power.
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> On Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 5:58 PM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:
> > On Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 11:05 AM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >> Wyoming [Pa.]
> >
> >
> > Local town makes good! Wyoming is located a hoot and a holler from
> Kingston
> > [Pa.], current residence of your humble correspondent. Both towns are
> > located in the Great Wyoming Valley of the Susquehanna River, in Luzerne
> > (not a misspelling of "Lucerne"; named for Anne-César, chevalier de Malte
> > et le marquis de la Luzerne, Normandy, France) County, the most
> > Trump-voting political entity in all of PA.
> >
> >

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list