Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
July 5th, 2015
Episode 247 of 717 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 05, 2015 is: bunkum \BUNG-kum\ noun : insincere or foolish talk : nonsense Examples: I hesitated to voice my opinions, fearful that my companions would deride my views as bunkum. "The now-discredited study got headlines because it offered hope. It seemed to prove that our sense of empathy could overcome prejudice and bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences. It was heartwarming, and it was utter bunkum." Charles Seife, Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2015 Did you know? Some words in our language have more colorful histories than others, but in the case of bunkum, you could almost say it was an act of Congress that brought the word into being. Back in 1820 Felix Walker, who represented Buncombe County, North Carolina, in the U.S. House of Representatives, was determined that his voice be heard on his constituents' behalf, even though the matter up for debate was irrelevant to Walker's district and he had little to contribute. To the exasperation of his colleagues, Walker insisted on delivering a long and wearisome "speech for Buncombe." His persistentif insignificantharangue made buncombe (later respelled bunkum) a synonym for meaningless political claptrap and later for any kind of nonsense.