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Date: Tue, 14 Apr 1998 00:04:47 -0400
Message-Id: <AWAD.892526687.19980414.010023.001@wordsmith.org>
From: Wordsmith <wsmith@wordsmith.org>
To: linguaphile@wordsmith.org
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--debunk

debunk (di-BUNGK) tr.verb

   To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of:

WORD HISTORY: One can readily see that debunk is constructed from the prefix
de-, meaning "to remove," and the word bunk. But what is the origin of the
word bunk, denoting the nonsense that is to be removed? Bunk came from a
place where much bunk has originated, the United States Congress. During the
16th Congress (1819-1821) Felix Walker, a representative from western North
Carolina whose district included Buncombe County, continued on with a dull
speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker replied he had felt
obligated "to make a speech for Buncombe." Such a masterful symbol for empty
talk could not be ignored by the speakers of the language, and Buncombe,
actually spelled Bunkum in its first recorded appearance in 1828 and later
shortened to bunk, became synonymous with claptrap. The response to all this
bunk seems to have been delayed, for debunk is not recorded until 1923.
   "But his aim is to portray Dahl as 'a capricious tycoon' rather than a
   great writer, to debunk the 'myths' that he claims Dahl put about
   concerning himself in Boy and Going Solo."
   Christina Hardyment, Book Review / The pink plastic dummy award: 'Roald
   Dahl', Independent, 12 Mar 1994.
This week's theme: words with interesting histories.
It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man.
-Albert Schweitzer
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Abuse of Foreigners in Amerikka

  • American Policy Regarding Immigration
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