Welcome to Buncombe County, North Carolina.
Buncombe County cannot be seen from outer space. You are not impressed, I can tell. And neither were you impressed when someone told you that The Great Wall of China was visible from space. You’re smarter than that. But the myth is out there and there are people that believe it.
We have Buncombe County to thank for a great word that explodes all those myths we are force-fed since birth and that renders them ‘debunked’, that’s to say exposes them as false, made-up, half-truths or just plain nonsense.
Long story short: Buncombe politician makes infamous and horrendously long and boring speech about nothing, Buncombe becomes bunkum and then bunk, both synonymous with nonsense, rubbish, claptrap and drivel…hence there is the need for a verb that can get rid of all this drivel, claptrap, rubbish, nonsense and bunk. So negative prefix ‘de’ was called to arms by novelist William Woodward, who used it as a way of saying to take the bunk out of things and all of a sudden a really cool verb is born.
So here’s an example of debunking.
Personally, I find the myth that it was a clandestine love affair in Mojácar, Almeria that brought Walt Disney (né José Guirao Zamora?) into the world rather more interesting. Who’d have thought?
So the history of cinema is rife with* all this debunkable stuff. Humphrey Bogart didn’t say «Play it again, Sam» in Casablanca, he just said «Play it, Sam». The myth that in The Wizard of Oz you can see the lifeless body of an actor playing a Munchkin who decided to commit suicide by hanging himself from one of the trees on set is just that..a myth. A good one though.
There’s one side to this where it’s almost a pity to debunk these stories. Who would really believe that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in exchange for his amazing guitar playing, voice and songs? But isn’t it just kind of great to believe that he did?
And no, The Beatles didn’t smoke marijuana in the toilets of Buckingham Palace before receiving their MBE medals from Queen Elizabeth in 1965. But imagine if they had!
And another thing; that thing that it is wrong to start a sentence with ‘And..’ Our friends at Meriam Webster can debunk this for us: «It’s perfectly acceptable to begin a sentence with and (as well as doing so with words such as but or or). Using and at the beginning of a sentence has been a practice for over a thousand years.» So there!**
But, of course, there’s the other side. We’re living in a time of post-truth politics, where fake news abounds, so debunking should be high on our ‘things to do’ lists. Is the verb more important in today’s society than it was before? It may well be that we have the information necessary to debunk these new forms of deception at our fingertips now, but in the past maybe the forces of misinformation were not so strong. Know what I mean? I think I do, but might have to re-read that last sentence. In the meantime here’s John with a few words on the subject.
Here’s one final example. All that drivel about how we only use 10% of our brains gets well and truly debunked.
So there you have it. There’s so much out there that’s not what they’d have us believe. Next thing you know, someone will be telling you that a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable.
*’rife with’ is a way of saying that there’s an awful lot of something, that something is widespread and that the something in question is undesirable.
Interestingly, if there’s ‘an awful lot of something’, it’s not necessarily awful. You can say ‘the film has received an awful lot of praise. That’s the whole ‘awe’, ‘awesome’ and ‘awful’ thing, which is awfully interesting. So maybe next time?
**’so there’ is an exclamation of defiance. I’m right and you’re wrong about the etymology of the word ‘duck’. So there!
And that’s another word that’s also awfully interesting.
2 comentarios sobre “Word of the week – debunk”
You were really inspired with this one. Bunk and hoax grow abundantly, manured by the digital compost of decayed information. I just debunked someone saying that a cave diving video where the sound of drilling work being done on the surface for the building of yet another hotel, was a hoax because divers would faint because of the loudness of noise under water. It is so tiring, boring and frustrating to deal with the ignorant people and know-it-alls!
I’ll go back to my cave, away from all that bunk.
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Caught between the ignorant and the know-it-alls. I couldn’t agree more. It may well be that a cave is the best refuge.
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