Wednesday Words: Malarkey, Binders of Women and More

NewsFeed's weekly highlight of words you should know.

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David McGlynn

malarkey (n.): humbug, bunkum, nonsense.

You’ve got to love a word that is defined by other hilarious words. You’ve also got to love that Joe Biden called “malarkey” on Paul Ryan — twice — during last week’s vice presidential debate. The second time, Biden built a sassy sentence around it: “We Irish call it malarkey.” Linguists were soon in a tizzy to find out whether this is truly an Irish word (verdict: they’re not sure). From Eire or no, that’s the kind of vocab we like to hear Biden using. Other suggestions for his next conversation with Ryan: hullabaloo, shenanigans, hubbub, poobah and tomfoolery.

binder (n., slang): an assemblage of women, feeding or traveling in company.

Touting his credentials as an equal-opportunity kind of guy, Mitt Romney said in the debate last night that he was brought “binders full of women” when he was looking to hire more females as Governor of Massachusetts. The awkward picture his language painted made the phrase an instant phenomenon. Some members of the peanut gallery quickly suggested that a “binder” be the new default collective noun to describe a group of women–like a pride of lions or a flange of baboons. It’s hard to say whether it feels more or less dignified than being part of a gaggle, but it certainly seems less fun.

(MORE: Binders Full of Women: Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New Political Meme)

rub-a-dub (n., slang): a bar; from Cockney rhyming slang with “pub.” 

There’s no shortage of British news stories about silly foreigners who came to the Sceptred Isle and had to be taught Cockney rhyming slang. During the Olympics, the volume of them was downright crazy—or as the chimney sweeps would say, chicken jalfrezi. But I realized I had actually missed them when I saw a recent London Evening Standard piece about a silly German football player whose teammates were teaching him the Cockney ways. Rub-a-dub is pub. Britney Spears is beers. Fatboy Slim is gym. What else could an immigrant possibly need to know?

bama (adj., slang): designating someone or something considered unacceptable or odd.

In a rundown of slang particular to Washington, D.C., RootDC columnist Clinton Yates explains that if someone refers to you as “bama”—pronounced, unsurprisingly, like “Alabama”—then “whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong.” Especially, he explains, if you’re acting like a “hayseed or rube.” Sure seems like them folks in the capital can be awful snooty.

misogyny (n., Aus.): entrenched prejudice against women.

This is the new, updated definition in Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary. Responding to the excoriating remarks by Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, directed at the (male) leader of the country’s opposition, lexicographers broadened the meaning beyond the previous tailored definition: “hatred of women.” No word yet from Merriam-Webster on whether they’ll be expanding their definition to include office-supply references, as some ladies would clearly like. (Yeah, that’s a binder joke.)

MORE: Hey Ladies, Want Some Jerky? Unusual Marketing Efforts Aimed Just at Women