• baloney •
Pronunciation: bê-lo-ni • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: 1. A variant US (mis)pronunciation of bologna, a mild, thick sausage made of mixed meats and meat by-products. 2. Bushwa, balderdash, blather, bunkum, claptrap, codswallop, crap, drivel, fiddle-faddle, flapdoodle, garbage, hogwash, hooey, hokum, horse feathers, horse pucky, humbug, malarkey, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, rubbish, tommy-rot, or common, everyday whang-doodle.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a US mispronunciation of bologna sausage "sausage from the city of Bologna". This mispronunciation became a word as soon as it took on the new meaning of "nonsense". It is another lexical orphan, a word with no derivational family.
In Play: As mentioned above, the basic sense of today's word is that of a large sausage, a slice of which fits nicely between two slices of bread: "Mom, I get so sick of baloney sandwiches day after day. Can't I take a salami sandwich to school one day?" The other sense of baloney takes its place among all the words meaning "nonsense" mentioned in the Meaning above: "I get so sick of all the baloney that comes out in election years—and I can't even make a sandwich out of it!"
Word History: If baloney is a mispronunciation of bologna that stuck, how did the meaning drift so far? Bologna had perhaps the mildest taste of all the sausages coming from Italy, it was the "blah" but thick sausage. It first picked up the meaning of "a thick head, a dolt": "The aristocratic Kid's first brawl for sugar was had in Sandusky, Odryo, with a boloney entitled Young Du Fresne," wrote H. C. Witwer in "The Leather Pushers" (Colliers Magazine, October 16, 1920). The current sense may have been an earlier coinage of legendary Variety staffer Jack Conway. It was popularized in the 1930s with its current sense by New York governor Alfred E. Smith, who loved to say, "No matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney." A dinner is held in honor of Alfred E. Smith each election year with the candidates for president in attendance. (We are grateful to Albert Skiles for suggesting today's Good Word—and that's no baloney!)