• debunk •
Pronunciation: di-bêngk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To expose falsehood or shams. 2. To undermine exaggerated claims.
Notes: This word is derived from the noun bunk, short for bunkum "falsehood, nonsense". It is an American original, so we have debunker as a personal noun and debunkable for a potential adjective. The present participle, debunking, serves as a regular adjective and the action noun.
In Play: You debunk false beliefs: "In her latest book, Hilda debunks the Western misbelief that health is synonymous with artistic mediocrity for all great artists must suffer." Exaggerated claims also invite debunking: "By the end of the week, Gladys Friday had thoroughly debunked the president's rosy predictions of next year's revenue."
Word History: Today's word is a derivation made up of de- "undo" + bunk "false nonsense". Bunk is a clipping of bunkum, a mid-19th century respelling of Buncombe. In 1820, Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe county, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, rose to address the question of admitting Missouri as a free or slave state. He rambled on in a long and wearisome speech until he was shouted down by his colleagues. Later he explained to them that he was speaking not to Congress but "to Buncombe". His colleagues thereafter referred to such speeches as buncombe, later misspelled as bunkum. (Now we must express our gratitude to George Kovac for sharing this very topical Good Word with us—and that's no bunk!)