Joe Biden Resurrects a Favorite Word

A term popularized by a 1920s newspaper sports editor.

JoeBidenMalarkeyRemember the time Joe Biden’s use of the word “malarkey” flared up in the media? No, not tonight at the DNC, but rather back in the fall of 2012, during a vice presidential debate.

From the top of an Oct. 12, 2012 NPR report:

“With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey,” Vice President Biden said during Thursday’s debate as he challenged Rep. Paul Ryan’s assertion that U.S. foreign policy has unraveled under President Obama.

A little later in the debate, Biden said Ryan’s criticisms were “a bunch of stuff” — and when moderator Martha Raddatz asked, “What does that mean?” he said, “We Irish call it malarkey.”

In that same article, reporter Mark Memott also revisits the U.S. origins of the term. In a cartoon by Thomas Aloysius Dorgan published March 9, 1922, “Milarkey” was used as a fictitious place name. Two years later, Dorgan dropped “malachy” into an April 2, 1924 illustration, drawing once more on the word’s nonsense meaning (‘Malachy — you said it — I wouldn’t trust a lawyer no further than I could throw a case of Scotch’).”

From there, several others contributed to the modern-era “malarkey” momentum. Per an entry in the Visual Thesaurus:

Slang expert Jonathan Lighter notes that along with Dorgan, another early popularizer of malarkey was Davis J. Walsh, sports editor of International News Service. Here are some examples from Walsh’s syndicated columns (Lighter found the examples in the archives of The Oakland Tribune and other newspapers):

  • That the business is not so much malarkey is indicated by the fact that [etc.]. (April 19, 1924)
  • We presume, however, that this kind if malarkey is to be expected from certain quarters. (May 20, 1924)
  • However, all talk of Eddie Roush figuring in any deal with the Giants is so much malarkey, according to Hendricks. (Dec. 6, 1924)
  • His announcement, consequently, could be taken as so much malarkey. (Jan. 3, 1925)
  • It was just a lot of malarkey. (June 25, 1925)

Image via: @DanforthFrance

Update (Aug. 1):
It appears that the Democrats are going to try and make this Irish term stick. Here is a tweet over the weekend from John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton for America, in reaction to Trump complaining about the scheduling of fall presidential debates opposite NFL games: