• malarkey •
Pronunciation: mê-lahr-kee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: Balderdash, blather, b.s., bunkum, claptrap, crap, drivel, garbage, horse pucky, humbug, idiocy, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, rigmarole, rubbish, trash, twaddle (feel free to add your favorite).
Notes: Judging from the long but still partial list of synonyms for today's word, it would seem that English speakers have a low tolerance for speech that doesn't make sense. We go out of our way to create nonsense words to express the notion of nonsense.
In Play: Although it is a good English word, this one is not a word you would use in formal writing. It is strictly for conversational use: "There is more malarkey in the philosophy department here than on Capitol Hill." Malarkey is all around us: "I haven't heard so much malarkey since Phil Anders tried to explain what he and his secretary were up to in the cloak room." That is another reason why we need so many words for it.
Word History: This word first emerged in the US in 1922 but no one knows where it came from. There is an Irish surname, Malarkey, but no one of that name seems to have been blessed with a greater gift of blarney than any other Irishman. Someone has suggested that it might be related to Greek malakos "soft," but this good word does not seem to be the concoction of someone versed in the classics. We will have to chalk it up as another mystery of the US linguistic mind.