“No malarkey”? Really?

I am a certified old guy. Just for the fun of it, I sometimes show my children how in touch I am with the younger generation by using slang that is way out of date, such as ‘far out’, ‘groovy’, ‘dig’, and ‘hip’. But even I would not stoop to using the word ‘malarkey’ and it baffles me that Joe Biden, already fighting an image that he is utterly out of touch with current times, would actually use it in his campaign slogan.

Conan O’Brien talks to Biden’s communications person as to the wisdom of this decision.

But maybe this might work. Young people may not know that this is a very old term and may think he has coined new slang and that would make him a trendsetter.


  1. Dunc says

    I’ve noticed a number of people commenting on this… Interestingly (for fairly small values of “interesting”, I’ll admit…) I’m not at all sure that “malarkey” has the same “old-fashioned” connotations in British English. It doesn’t to me, but then I’m not exactly young any more… However, I’m not that old, either.

    According to Merriam-Webster the first known use is from 1924, whereas Wiktionary pegs it to 1922… Either way, it hardly makes it “very old” in my book.

  2. alanuk says

    I too am a certified old guy. Words like, ‘far out’, ‘groovy’, ‘dig’, and ‘hip’, were used by the young to indicate membership of their group. (See Barbara Cartland’s Etiquette Handbook: A Guide to Good Behaviour from the Boudoir to the Boardroom 1962.) The words naturally fall out of use when the group grows older.
    I do not think that ‘malarkey’ falls into that category. Obviously there are fashions in words but ‘malarkey’ is still in common use.
    Good use of it is made by the late Frank L. Lambert, “Entropy change doesn’t measure “disorder”! (What are the dimensions of “disorder”? Malarkeys per minute or some such nonsense? The scientific dimensions of entropy change are joules/kelvin.)

  3. flex says

    I wouldn’t call the word old-fashioned. But it seems to me that aside from it occasionally being used by script-writers to give an old-fashioned feel to the speech of a senior (like Grandpa Simpson), I’ve only heard it as advertising speak. A bit of slang used by Madison Avenue advertising firms to add emphasis to selling products. “This hot dog is 100% beef, and that’s no malarkey!”

    I’ve always seen it one of the words invented by ad-men and broadcasters as an euphemism for “shit”. Used to avoid public outrage at the use of profanity (“Won’t somebody think of the children!”) or even censorship. Which makes it seem old-fashioned because while there is still a distinction to be made about styles of speech, and appropriateness of language in various situations, I don’t know of many people who would be terribly offended by the use of the word “shit” in print or broadcast.

  4. flex says

    I guess my feeling about Biden’s choice to use this word is that it ties him to corporations rather than voters. The use of “Malarkey” strikes me as something a big-name advertising firm came up with.

    I get an image of tired advertising men sitting around table in a smoke-filled room, with their thin black ties askew after the pressure of working for hours on the perfect catch-phrase for a presidential campaign. It is late at night, the remains of plastic-wrapped sandwiches and foam coffee cups scattered around the table. And finally one of them gets a bright look on his face and says, “How about malarkey?” Nods all around, the senior VP pulls the cigar out of his mouth and says, “I like it. Let’s go home”.

    Cheers all around, but they never played it in Peoria.

  5. rrutis1 says

    I’m 53, malarkey was a word my grandfather used. It doesn’t seem to be a word used commonly by people my age, at least not unless we’re playing at being old-timey! Really the thing we should be talking about is how long it will be before Biden actually shouts “get off my lawn”.

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