Wednesday, 31 August 2011


I've just read "My life as an author and editor" by H.L. Mencken  (edited by Jonathan Yardley and published in  1993 by Alfred A Knopf Inc).

Mencken knew a thing or two about what he called "The American Language".  So I took note when he used the word "buncombe" in contexts where you or I might use "bunkum".

Here, from Wikipedia, is an  explanation of  the word buncombe; a word which emerged in common parlance as bunkum.

"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. This was his first attempt to speak on this subject after nearly a month of solid debate and right before the vote was to be called. Allegedly, to the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome "speech for Buncombe". He was shouted down by his colleagues.His persistent effort made "buncombe" (later respelled "bunkum") a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.Although he was unable to make the speech in front of Congress it was still published in a Washington newspaper." 

As for H.L.Mencken  himself  please do your own research on this brilliant  man who was (in more or less equal parts)

1. a brilliant writer/ editor/ journalist .

2. a libertarian and a scourge of the religious.

3. an  iconoclast. 

4.  an acerbic and witty writer  who was anti-puritan and anti-british.

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