Holy mackerel, what a lark! What, a lark? Sure, the lark in the morning sings a great song in any key, but don’t believe it. Ah, this is a fine word for blarney, blather, meretricious persiflage… and so Irish in the sound! Well, Mullarkey is an Irish family name. And other early versions of this word have also had an Irish sound to them, for instance Malachy (the form of our first known use). But we have no solid tie to the Irish with this one, as luck would have it. Oh, that doesn’t mean there’s no connection. But the word arose in the United States; its first known user (in other words, the first one to publish it somewhere we can find it) was a cartoonist in 1922. Our malarkeyology doesn’t dig deeper. But it was pretty popular by 1930. And why not? It just flips over the tongue like a flapjack, starting at the lips and then touching the tip with the liquid /l/, rolling through the retroflex /r/ and kicking the back with the /k/ before finally releasing to the /i/, for which the tongue is already bent. It has the same rhythm and general gestural trend as baloney, which is like unto blarney. And malarkey has that corny, fleering /r/, as in “har har.” It’s even kind of like the gobbledegook you get from some turkey – or tell to him to make him go away. But one way or another, whether you’re the monkey or the one on the make, the palaver this word stands for, the name’s nuances notwithstanding, is neither fish nor fowl.
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