Malarkey Doesn’t Mean That

By Maeve Maddox

In a recent television ad for a cell phone service, potential customers are shown as being afraid of “hidden fees,” “funny business,” and “bamboozling.” The agent asks, “What is bamboozling?” A potential customer says, “It’s like malarkey.”

The ad bothers me because bamboozling is a gerund and malarkey is an ordinary noun. I’d prefer something like this:

Agent: What is bamboozling?
Customer: It’s trying to trick us by feeding us a bunch of malarkey.

But then, I suppose the extra words would drive up the price of the ad.

The verb bamboozle is noted in English as early as 1700, in a Tatler article complaining about the invasion of slang terms. The OED definition of the verb bamboozle is “to deceive by trickery; to perplex or confuse.”

The definition in Merriam-Webster is, “to conceal one’s true motives from someone, especially by elaborately feigning good intentions so as to gain an end or achieve an advantage.”

The first OED citation for malarkey is 1924; the most recent, 2000. It’s defined as “humbug, bunkum, nonsense.”

Malarkey is any idea or utterance seen as “trivial, misleading, or not worthy of consideration.” M-W defines malarkey as “insincere or pretentious talk or writing designed to impress one and usually to distract attention from ulterior motives or actual conditions.”

A person intent on bamboozling someone might employ malarkey in the effort to deceive, but bamboozling and malarkey are not quite synonyms.

Synonyms for the verb bamboozle:
trick
deceive
delude
hoodwink
mislead
take in
dupe
fool
double-cross
cheat
defraud
swindle
gull
hoax
entrap
con
bilk
shaft
flimflam

Synonyms for the noun malarkey:
rubbish
gibberish
claptrap
balderdash
hogwash
baloney
rot
moonshine
garbage
jive
tripe
drivel
bull
bunk/bunkum
BS
hokum
twaddle
gobbledygook

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5 Responses to “Malarkey Doesn’t Mean That”

  • Tom Babington

    Comment regarding “Malarkey Doesn’t Mean That”:
    I enjoyed this a lot. It reminded me of an Amos ‘n Andy segment on the radio many years ago and it may give rise to a new usage for bamboozle.
    In the segment, Kingfish becomes upset with Andy for deceiving him yet again. Said Kingfish, “Andy you’ve been bamboozling me for a long time but this is the last boozle!”
    Thanks for an entertaining piece!

  • thebluebird11

    @Tom: “boozle”…That’s funny!!
    @Maeve: I too enjoyed this post, mainly for the lists of synonyms. English is such an abundant language that it’s hard to remember all the beautiful and useful words we have, so we tend to use the same ones over and over. They burst into the Top 20 and then fall out of favor, but if we refresh our memories now and then, we can resurrect them. Thanks!

  • venqax

    I like codswallop and dreck. Well, the words anyway.

  • thebluebird11

    @venqax: When you use the word “dreck,” do you pronounce it with the “Germanic” (or Spanish) R sound or the “American” R sound? 😉 The American R sound is lame! you can really dial up your dreck a few notches by rolling that R!!

  • Kevin wilson

    I too am pleased to know that I’m nott he only person in the world the believes this ad and it’s comparing bamboozle to the likes of malarkey as being alike bothered me also. You can be bamboozled by a bunch of malarkey, but in no way are the two words the same thing.
    Glad that’s off my chest. Now on to solve world peace and hunger.

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