Printable Version
Pronunciation: bawl-dêr-dæsh Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. A drink made by mixing several incompatible drinks, e.g. milk, beer, whisky, wine, tea. 2. Malarkey, blather, bunkum, claptrap, drivel, humbug, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, rigmarole, twaddle. (The rumor that this word may also refer to the lock of hair men sometimes comb forward to cover a bald spot is untrue.)

Notes: Balderdash is one of those creative words in English with no family and a shady past (see Word History). This word has been used, as is, for a verb meaning to create a bad drink or adulterate an otherwise good drink, as 'to balderdash the punch with homemade wine'. I see no reason why it couldn't be used to refer to speaking nonsense. If we did that, it creates room for balderdasher referring to someone who speaks nonsense.

In Play: I have always lamented the implication of English possessing so many words for nonsense. Apparently we need a lot of them: "Everything you said about Matt Tremoni enjoying the life of a bachelor is pure balderdash!" On the other hand, I love trying to save words from the brink of extinction, however quixotic the attempt may be: "I love Ron Rico's parties, but I can't stand the balderdash he puts together and calls 'punch'."

Word History: As suggested in the Meaning, today's Good Word has nothing to do with balding or baldness. Balder probably comes from a dialectal word balder "to swear, curse", related to Old Dutch balderen "to roar, thunder", Norwegian (Nynorsk) baldre "fast slurred speech", and Swedish bullra "roar". If so, the root of balder goes back to the Proto-Indo-European word that also gave us bellow. To dash something to pieces results in a lot of incoherent and inconsistent pieces. That the two concepts of broken speech and dashing are related emerges in the Danish word related to the other Scandinavian words above: baldre "smash, bash, bust". It may be a stretch, but these associations do ultimately add up to balderdash. (Expressing our gratitude to Jackie Strauss for her suggestion of today's Good Word is no balderdash. Thank you, Jackie!)

Dr. Goodword,

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