Meanings: Bologna—or is it Baloney?

May 2, 2103

Today, Language Log sorts out the derisive term “bologna,” or should we say “baloney”?  Mark Liberman explains that it isn’t even clear that “baloney,” as an expression declaring some statement to be nonsense, is even related to the Italian city or the sausage meat we associate with that locale.

Google NGram makes is clear that whether we are talking about lunch meat or nonsense, both are on the rise, though the upstart “baloney” doesn’t make an appearance until the 1920s, quickly peaks, but is now approaching an all-time high. If we are talking about nonsense, we aren’t at all surprised.

bologna + baloney

On the other hand, if talk of Bologna is really about reform of higher education, then opinions are much more mixed about whether it is baloney.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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