Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's the Bunk

It was a staple of cop shows and movies and pulp novels, a special group of hard-bitten detectives known as the "bunco squad."

They handled grifters who swindled people with their fast-talking double talk.  The old switcheroo where someone walked up to you outside a bank, said they just found a wad of money, and would be glad to split it with you if you would just put up a few thousand bucks to show you were earnest about it, is a classic example.

You know how it worked out, every time. The pile of greenery they showed you was real on top and bottom and cut-up newspaper in between, and the con men walked away with a real stack of your real money for one reason: it's well-known that people's greed usually exceeds their common sense by a country mile.  You can take that to the bank.  And they do!

Also on the "bunk" beat was the statement by a one-term governor of Maryland that "multiculturalism is bunk."  This remark, in a state with a multiplicity of ethnicities abounding, was foolish then (1994) and still is.

So where do we get this term, "bunk" or "bunco"?  From North Carolina!

Buncombe County is a county in western North Carolina.  Their US Congressman, in 1820, was a man named Felix Walker, who delivered a dull, inane speech" for Buncombe".

There's a historical marker down in the Tarheel State to show his old homestead. Asheville is in his old district.

It was largely felt in Congress that Walker spoke a lot of words and very few of them made sense, so the association of his insincere words and his home area stuck with him, and lives on, as "bunk."

H. L. Mencken, the Evening SUNpaper writer called the "Sage of Baltimore," and an American lexicographer (he took the Greek word "ekdusis" {"shedding"} and coined "ecdysiast" as a word for strip tease performers - and turned "boob" {nickname for a fool} into a collective term for an entire group of fools - "booboisie") published a collection of his essays under the title "A Carnival of Buncombe." 

That's all for today.  Tomorrow, let's talk about why Wheat Thins are not only a tasty cracker but also an excellent filler for holes and chips in your woodwork!

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