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Comic Legends: Did a Comic Strip Invent the Word Malarkey?

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
Comic Legends: Did a Comic Strip Invent the Word Malarkey?

Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the six hundred and ninth week of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false.

Here‘s Part 1 of this week’s Comic Book Legends Revealed! Let’s continue!


A comic strip invented the word “malarkey.”


I’m Going With False, but it’s Close

Outgoing Vice President Joe Biden is famous for his use of the word “malarkey,” which is basically his way of saying BS.

Here he is using it during the Vice Presidential debate with Paul Ryan back in 2012…

When the media began to cover Biden’s use of the word (he uses it a LOT. He used it a lot in the most recent Presidential Election, as well), they also began to look into the origins of the word.

Biden himself said that it was an Irish word, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence that that is true. What seems more likely is that it is an Irish-AMERICAN word, or at least a word coined in the United States period.

There was a very popular cartoonist in the 1920s by the name of Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, who went by his initials, TAD. He had a comic strip named “Indoor Sports.” He would often coin new words, but because of that, he often got credit for things that he didn’t invent, like famously “hot dog.”

When it comes to “malarkey,” it’s tricky. In 1922, he named a fictitious town “Milarkey.” In a 1924 strip, he used the word “Malachy” as a nonsense word like Malarkey.


Click here to enlarge the image.

However, at the same time, sports writer David J. Walsh was using the term in the standard way in April 1924…”That the business is not so much Malarkey is indicated by the fact that ”

and in May 1924…”We presume, however, that this kind if malarkey is to be expected from certain quarters.”

So Walsh was using the standard “malarkey=nonsense” meaning at the same time that Dorgan was using “malachy” in a similar way. It seems unlikely that Walsh got his from Dorgan, so it seems more likely that the term existed before Dorgan AND Walsh. So while I can’t say who coined it, I don’t think that it is fair to credit Dorgan.

Thanks to Ben Zimmer’s great column on the origins of malarkey here.

Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at CBR: Was Chandler on Friends originally meant to be gay?

Check back Sunday for part 3 of this week’s legends!

And remember, if you have a legend that you’re curious about, drop me a line at either or!

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