Inquiring minds Feb. 7

Each week the staff at the Roseville Library answers more than 2,500 questions on every subject under the sun. Here are some of the most interesting ones they’ve gotten lately.

Q. What does it mean when you say that someone is “full of malarkey”? Where does that expression come from?

A. If you say that someone or something is full of malarkey, you mean that what is happening is nonsense, not something or someone to be taken seriously. The expression came into the English language in the 1920s. Nobody knows the real origins of it, but many language experts have noted that Malarkey is a perfectly respectable Irish surname, and immigration from European countries like Ireland had reached a high watermark just a few years before the expression was introduced.
Could “malarkey” be a racist slur directed against the only major immigrant group that arrived already speaking good English? Nobody can say for sure, but here’s an additional sidelight on the word: In the Gaelic language, one meaning for “malarkey” is “salmon.” So the next time you declare something to be pure “malarkey” consider that there may be something “fishy” about it in more ways than one.
(Historical Dictionary of American Slang and Dictionary of American Family Names.)

Q. Can I locate information on Korean War veterans through the Internet?

A. Probably not. Korean War Military Records are not available by computer. The records themselves are stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo. Their phone number is: (314) 801-0800. Their e-mail address is: MPR.center@nara.gov. If you are the veteran or an immediate next of kin, you may request a full copy of the records. All others must submit a form SF180 to receive a limited amount of information under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. The government says that the amount of information that can be released to the general public is “intended to strike a balance between the public’s right to obtain information from Federal records . . .and the veteran’s right to privacy as defined by the Privacy Act.”
(Website of the Federal Archives in St. Louis.)

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