14 December 2007


folderol \FAHL-duh-rahl\ noun
1 : a useless ornament or accessory : trifle *2 : nonsense
Example sentence: Cherie dismissed the tabloid article as useless folderol.

Did you know? Hogwash. Claptrap. Hooey. Drivel. Malarkey. English is rife with words that mean "nonsense," and "folderol" is one of the many. Though not the most common of the words for nonsense, it's been around since 1820 and is still heard today. "Folderol" comes from "fol-de-rol" (or "fal-de-ral"), which used to be a nonsense refrain in songs, much like "tra-la-la." The oldest recorded instance of someone "singing folderol" occurs in Irish dramatist George Farquhar’s 1701 play Sir Harry Wildair, in which a character sings, "Fal, al, deral!"

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Every day I get a "Word of the Day" email from Merriam-Webster. Today's is listed above. Most days I read it, even when I know the word's meaning, just to read about the etymology of words. I mean, I did take Latin for 3 years, and this is one of the few times that I'm likely to use that learning directly!

Today's word really hit home, however. It's getting close to Christmas (I'm no longer panicking, as I've made a significant dent in purchasing presents in the past few days), and there's certainly a lot of of ornamentation and accessorizing going on these days.

More importantly, there's a lot of nonsense around me recently. Mostly this is work-related. Our long legislative session starts on Jan. 8 and we're in full bill drafting mode right now. Sometimes being a bill drafter is a thankless job. There are a lot of bills that we draft that never see the light of day because the legislator decides he or she doesn't want to file it and make it public. That happens a lot. Then there are those bills that the sponsor is very enthusiastic about but you know for political or practical reasons that the bill won't ever be heard in committee. For those raised on Schoolhouse Rock ditties, and you know who you are, you know that getting out of committee is the first step on a Bill's journey to becoming a Law. So you get this assignment to draft some complicated piece of legislation and you know that this bill will never make that journey.

But just in case we get too cocky about knowing what's going to happen, each session it seems that some piece of legislation that you never in a million years thought was going to go anywhere, much less become a law, actually moves through the process and gets enacted. So despite the sometimes thanklessness of the job, you also always do your best job you know how, no matter what the odds seem on that document ever seeing the light of day, much less ending up codified in the statutes. (And trust me, even some of those are hogwash, malarkey, or folderol!

So tra-la-la and fol-de-rol and Merry Christmas to all!

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