Category Archives: Neologisms


an action taken by a member of Congress (such as a prolonged, often irrelevant speech) that obstructs the progress of a bill without technically contravening the required procedures. Most filibusters occur in the US Senate.

In the news…
GOP uses filibusters to obstruct Obama, Democrats


This now-defunct nonsense word was popularized almost singlehandedly by a Georgia Democratic Party operative named H. W. J. Ham, who traveled around the country during the 1890s with a stump speech titled “The Snollygoster in Politics.” Ham claimed to have first heard the term during an 1848 political debate. He defined a snollygoster as “a political hypocrite.” The Columbus Dispatch for October 28, 1895, captures the spirit of the word with this more elaborate definition: “A snollygoster is a fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principles, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnancy.”


This putdown first gained popularity in the 1850s as a way to show a lack of awe toward the powerful. The term is borrowed from Chinook Jargon, a trading language used by Pacific Northwest tribes during the nineteenth century. Muckamuck means food or provisions and the phrase hiu muckamuck translates roughly as “plenty to eat.” English-speaking Americans adopted a slightly mangled version as slang for a “big shot,” possibly with the idea that having plenty of provisions translates into wealth and power. Politicians who needed taking down a peg were soon being sarcastically labeled “high muckamucks.” The label is still occasionally heard today, and still works just as well.


When Martin Van Buren ran for the presidency in 1836, his opponents coined the nicknames “Little Magician” and “Red Fox of Kinderhook” (the New York town where the red-haired Van Buren was born) to highlight what they saw as his slippery character. They also invented the adjective vanburenish, meaning an unprincipled or evasive politician. Former Congressman David Crockett was one of those who didn’t trust Van Buren. Crockett wrote about him, “It is said that at a year old he could laugh on one side of his face and cry on the other, at one and the same time.”


one who exposes or ridicules the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of another


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, carried on with a dull speech in the face of protests by his colleagues. Walker later explained 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, 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.


In a tweet…
Winning Words ‏@WinningWordsPro
.@heyprofbow Not “may,” WILL—Scientifically proven. Never repeat a RW frame when debunking. Try NOT to think of an elephant@Political_Bill

(Thanks to @WinningWordsPro for recommending The Debunking Handbook.)