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If the name stuck as a slang term, it's probably not because the original "Malarkey" was such a bad person, but because the word itself is fun to say. Incidentally, I rarely laugh at readers' questions.
Dear Evan: Recently, I have begun to question my own dearly-held cliches. For one thing, it's your job to laugh at my answers, and, for another, most of my readers are big, burly guys who don't cotton to being mocked. There are, as I've implied, a whole slew of possible origins of "dressed to the nines," meaning to be dressed in an elegant or elaborate fashion.
" -- Barb Bumann, Spokane Public Library, Spokane, WA. The phrase "lame duck" comes to us from Aesop's Fables, specifically the tale of Androcles and the Duck.
It seems that an escaped slave named Androcles encountered a ferocious duck in the forest.
Nosiree, you can have my share of the truth any day -- I'll stick with "Baywatch," thank you. Oh yes, "malarkey." I think it's a grand name, myself.
It has a nice sort of Irish lilt to it, and a good galloping rhythm.
Dear Evan: I'm enclosing an article from a recent New York Magazine about a shop that recently opened in Manhattan called "Bob's Your Uncle," the name of which is also evidently a common British expression. I'm looking at the clipping you sent along and coming to the conclusion that we have far bigger problems around here than figuring out who "Bob" might be.
The writer of the article asked "ten different Brits" what the expression means and got ten different answers, ranging from "anything's possible" to "there you are." I'm hoping you can shed a little light on the question, and while you're at it, tell us who "Bob" is. According to the author, "Bob's Your Uncle" (the store) specializes in "unlikely stuff put together in unusual ways" -- specifically, "shirts on lamps, steel mesh on pillows, and pot scrubbers on picture frames." This sounds a great deal like the aftermath of some of the parties I threw in my youth.
There is no one answer, so I guess you'll just have to pick the theory you like best.
First of all, I must say that I really like the card Sarah used to send in her question, which features a small dog evidently named Claudia. As to where "mind your P's and Q's," meaning "be very careful" or "behave yourself" came from, I'm afraid that there is no clear answer, though folks have been saying it since the late 1700's.
The consolation is that there are a number of fascinating theories, so you can pretty much take your pick of the following.
The term first appeared in America in the 1920's, but there is no clear connection to any other word in English.
The eminent British etymologist Eric Partridge suspected that it might be based on the modern Greek word "malakia," but no one else seems to agree with his theory. Partridge's editor and successor, Paul Beale, makes note of a Cockney slang term, "Madam Misharty," which means roughly the same thing as "malarkey" and may be based on a real person, in this case thought to be a fortune-teller.