Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bunkum, Bunk, Hokum, and Debunk

During the heated debate concerning the Missouri Compromise in 1820, Representative Felix Walker from the North Carolina County of Buncombe gave a disjointed and largely irrelevant speech. His colleagues begged him to yield but he refused, saying his speech wasn't for congress but for those in his home county.

Thus Buncombe (county seat Asheville) lends its name to bunkum, meaning claptrap, hot air, or empty asinine talk. Bunkum (combined with hocus-pocus to make hokum) is sometimes shortened to bunk, and in 1923 the word debunk entered the language based on the above.

Thank you, Felix Walker, for wasting time and giving us several nice words derived from a place name.

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