malachy, malaky, malarkey?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 29 21:40:25 UTC 2007

If Abbot Bernard of Claivaux, AKA the far-better-known Saint Bernard,
who preached the Second Crusade from the steps of the cathedral of Bad
Muenster, who is a Doctor of the Catholic Church, and who has a breed
of dog named after him, was moved to write a biography of Archbishop
Saint Malachy, the latter must *really* have been quite well-known,
back in the day. Well, fame can be fleeting.


On 9/29/07, Stephen Goranson <goranson at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Stephen Goranson <goranson at DUKE.EDU>
> Subject:      malachy, malaky, malarkey?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I know that several of you are quite familiar with the work of Peter Tamony.
> I've read his "Malarkey: TAD, and Its San Francisco Roots." Western Folklore
> 33.2 April 1974 pp.158-62 (available on JSTOR and reprinted in McLain). And I
> checked Peter Tamony: Word Man of San Francisco's Mission by Marjorie McLain
> (1986); A TAD Lexicon, Leonard Zwilling (1993); The Tamony FS, Maledicta 7?
> [that number from memory]; and TAD: A Collection of Cartoons by Thomas
> Aloysius
> Dorgan 1877-1929, published by The Museum of Cartoon Art.
> There's no doubt that TAD and Tamony have lots of insight into slang.
> Yet, if I
> may say so, I'm not sure the evidence for the origin of malarkey is entirely
> secure or stringent. It may well seem temerarious or a long shot to suggest an
> alternate possiblility, but here goes, with the hope that collaborative
> research may help, whatever the origin turns out to be, whether a boastful
> oyster shucker, Jerry Mullarkey [sic] or otherwise.
> Mullarkey might have become malarkey, but the link seems tenuous.
> Tamony did not
> present direct evidence. Did TAD ever discuss this? OED comments that "no
> connection is known" between Mullarkey and malarkey. OED notes a 1922 TAD
> cartoon with Milarkey [sic], "presumably a fictitous place name," presumably
> not relevant. OED also notes the--I'd say quite unlikely--proposed Greek
> origin.
> The OED definition and first three cites:
> Humbug, bunkum, nonsense; a palaver, racket. (Usually of an event, activity,
> idea, utterance, etc., seen as trivial, misleading, or not worthy of
> consideration.)
> 1924 T. A. DORGAN in Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin) 2 Apr. 6 Malachy--you
> said it. 1929 J. P. MCEVOY Hollywood Girl vii. 102 It's a wonder you
> notice me,
> I told him. That's a lot of malaky, says he. 1930 Variety 29 Oct., The song is
> ended but the Malarkey lingers on.
> The full 1929 title is Simon and Schuster Present The Super-Colossal Wonder
> Picture Epoch of This or Any Other Century, Hollywood Girl.
> Does anyone have a copy of the 1924 cartoon? I'd be grateful for a copy or a
> description. Does anyone have additional pre-1930 citations?
> If the first spelling is Malachy and the second is Malaky--both without an r,
> perhaps we should consider possible origin with that spelling. There is a
> well-known medieval Irish Archbishop Malachy. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote his
> biography. Eventually a prophecy in Latin, claiming to predict the next 111 or
> 112 popes, was attributed to (St.) Malachy. These prophecies are examined at
> least when each new pope takes office, as in 1922. Many regard these
> prophecies
> as malarkey.
> Stephen Goranson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list