IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when we refer to someone talking “bunkum” because what they are saying is nonsense or inane, it’s perhaps appropriate to remember how the word came about – because, possibly appropriately, it was named after a politician in the American House of Representatives.
Way back in 1820 a Mr Felix Walker who represented Buncombe County in the state of North Carolina, and who was not exactly renowned for speechmaking in the House, surprised other Members by rising to speak on the contentious issue of legalised slavery in North Carolina, and which had been debated at that stage for nearly a month.
But instead of saying whether he was speaking for or against the issue, and then arguing his point, Mr Walker began a long and rambling diatribe described by a local newspaper as “tedious,” and which quickly had other Members of the House wondering what he was talking about, and then shouting him down.
And to which Mr Walker replied “I am talking for Buncombe,” as he simply wanted the fact he had actually spoken in the House on the contentious slavery issue, to be reported in his local Buncombe newspaper, and thus please his constituents.
The Press and others thereafter quickly referred to anything stupid, empty or nonsensical said in the House of Representatives to be “Buncombe,” and over the years this got changed to what we now refer to as “bunkum.”