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What is Malarkey?

Updated on October 13, 2012
The source of malarkey
The source of malarkey | Source

When they are full of it

Certain words get bandied about by old people – malarkey is one of them.

But what is this word that became so popular during the 2012 Vice Presidential Debate? It comes in bulk as in “a load of malarkey”. Malarkey, also known as “stuff” also known as “bull s#*t”, is a good clean way of calling someone out for perpetuating a galactic level piece of nonsense without making the television censors have a stroke.

“Malarkey” is word with a bit of antiquated class and intelligence. When it is used, we hear it and think that it’s a word that is more likely to escape the lips of our grandparents rather than come from a more conventional tongue.

Personally, I like the word.

It rolls off the tongue with a bit of musk and dust and still manages to cut through a conversation like a hot knife through a stick of butter. Malarkey. What’s all this then? Malarkey.

Origin of the word

I have to confess that I had some difficulty finding the etymology of this word. Each dictionary that checked came up with “unknown”.

I was hoping that "malarkey" stemmed from some great Irish mythological figure like "Thomas O'Malarkay". This fictitious person would be famous for babbling complete and utter falsehoods in his quaint Erin town. And later he was tried and punished by having his tongue cut out and fed to wolves.

No such luck.

The true definition of malarkey is “meaningless talk” or “nonsense and foolishness”. The origin of this word is actually uncertain. It’s been in use in the US and the UK since the 1920’s and has had different spellings. It goes by “malaky”, “malachy”, and “mullarkey”.

Speculated meanings have been thought that it came through the greek word “malakia” or the Irish term “mullachan” meaning ruffian or termed through the Irish clan of “Malarkey” although there is no evidence to suggest that any person of that last name to perpetuate such nonsense talk.

So, it’s still a mystery for the most part.

What is known is that it was used early in the 1920’s by cartoonist T. A. Dorgan and it appeared frequently after that. By the 1930’s, it was common parlance.

Final Words

I miss the times when we could use an innocent term like “malarkey” and have it understood by most people. Nowadays, most people say that the other guy is full of s#*t. I also enjoy using the term “shenanigans” which means “trickery, skullduggery, or underhanded action.”

When you call “shenanigans” on someone, you are calling them a cheating liar. It’s something that goes hand in hand with “malarkey”. Personally, I don’t like people who engage in either shenanigans or malarkey. They strike me as people that are untrustworthy and they are certainly people I would not want in public office.

Because they’re full of it.

It’s like working with someone who’s constantly trying to pull the Jedi Mind Trick on you. After a while, you either tell them to stop or put a fist in his face. The former option is polite and the latter is just plain satisfying.

I think it’s funny that we can be so cavalier about creating words that indicate the worst characteristics of the human condition yet the ones that describe our noblest virtues are stalwart. “Truthful”, “honest”, “forthright”, or “ethical” seem to have no slang to them. I think it’s because they endure. There is no urban translation for a good person. Not that I know of, anyway.

I also think it’s more fun to think of something clever and sharp to hurl to people who desperately need to be hung for their shenanigans and malarkey.


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    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I really wanted there to be a "Thomas O'Malarcky". That way we could have traced something back to some of my ancestors (I'm half O'Halloran).

      But I've really enjoyed some of the more antiquated phrases such as "bally-wick" and "tom foolery" - leave alone "shenanigans". It's a good colorful way of calling someone out for their nonsense while giving the illusion of restraint.

    • krsharp05 profile image

      Kristi Sharp 5 years ago from Born in Missouri. Raised in Minnesota.

      What ballyhoo is this? No Thomas O'Malarkay? It would make for a better read however, you always do such justice to everything you write. Very enjoyable, well researched and great humor to boot. As always, it's a pleasure :) Funny & Up. -K

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. More stuff after tomorrow's comic con.

      For me, the trouble isn't writing this stuff, it's not writing it. Or not writing with the pure venom that just causes... problems.

      Thanks for reading. :)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      An absolutely, incredibly satisfying read--almost as much as using one's fist against one full of 'malarkey' and pulling 'shenanigans.' Since I'm one of those old folks you mentioned, I obviously can't do the fist-in-the-face maneuver, so I'll settle for using these delightful words--more genteel than the synonym and not likely to get me scolded.

      Voted Up and all the way across. Shared.