Thinly dressed with yellow mustard and slapped between two slices of white bread, bologna is found in the lunchboxes of many American youth. But, what does the cold cut have to do with baloney, a slang word that implies nonsense?
The bologna sausage is traditionally made from the “odds and ends” of chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. It is similar to the Italian mortadella, which originated in the Italian city of Bologna. The inexpensive deli meat is often pronounced and spelled “baloney.”
While Oscar Mayer Americanized bologna, it is enjoyed in different forms throughout the world. In Newfoundland, it is a popular breakfast food called the Newfie Steak. In Britain, it goes by Polony. Polony may be derived from the old name for Poland: Polonia. But, like the American word, it may have also come from the Italian city famous for its sausages.
On to baloney: The slang word took off in the 1930s thanks to Alfred E. Smith, who served as the governor of New York four times and was the first Roman Catholic major party nominee to run for president. He frequently used the term baloney in reference to Washington bureaucracy. Incidentally, Governor Smith claimed that as a young man he took his first lessons in the ways of the American populace while working not at a sausage factory, but the Fulton Fish Market in New York, where he earned $12 a week.
It’s also possible that baloney was influenced by blarney, which means “cajolery,” “flattering,” “nonsense,” and “deceptive talk.” The word comes from the legend of the Blarney Stone. Located in a wall in a castle near Cork, Ireland, the stone is said to turn whoever kisses it into a persuasive flatterer.