The word bunk has two unrelated definitions: a "type of bed" and "nonsense". The "type of bed" meaning was probably a shortening of bunker, which was originally a Scottish slang term for a type of seat (beyond that, the etymology is uncertain). The second meaning is also a shortening, this time of the now-archaic noun bunkum (also "nonsense"), and that word is a corruption of the North Carolinian county name Bumcombe! For the story behind that, we turn to a debate on the floor of the U.S. Congress in 1820, when a North Carolina Representative called Felix Walker gave a very long and boring speech regarding the Missouri Compromise. Several other congressmen called for him to wrap it up, but he persisted, repeatedly saying that he wanted a quote of his to be featured in local papers and that it was a speech for Buncombe, not Congress. Thereafter, bunkum came to be associated with political claptrap and then nonsense in general, and Walker left his mark on history.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.