Where did the word "balderdash" come from, you ask? I'm so glad you did.

Turns out that "balderdash," before it meant "nonsense," meant a disgusting cocktail:


1590s, of unknown origin; originally a jumbled mix of liquors (milk and beer, beer and wine, etc.), transferred 1670s to "senseless jumble of words." From dash; first element perhaps cognate with Dan. balder "noise, clatter" (cf. boulder*).

Some of the earlier uses, from the OED:

1611 CHAPMAN May-day III. Dram. Wks. "S'fut winesucker, what have you fild vs heere? baldre~dash?" 1629 B. JONSON New Inn "Beer or butter-milk, mingled together..It is against my free-hold..To drink such balder-dash."

Everybody grew up with a name for "jumbled mix of liquors," right? Because kids have been stealing their parents' liquor—a little splash from each bottle into a mason jar, then everybody bringing their jars to the party spot (a filed, a remote parking lot) and pouring them into a big, communal pot—since God was a boy.

When I was in high school, we called it a graveyard, which came from our pre-booze days, when we'd go to the movies or a fast-food place and mix every kind of soda together at the soda machine. (I don't know why we called the soda-melange a graveyard—maybe because the little plastic plaques that listed the names of the sodas looked like tombstones?)

Kids in the Northwest called it spodee, from the 1949 song "Drinkin' Wine Spodee-O-Dee" by Stick McGhee** (the first big hit for Atlantic Records):

McGhee wrote the song and played the song for his friends while he was in the military. "Spodee-o-dee," apparently, was a stand-in for "motherfucker." From the original lyrics:

Drinkin’ that mess is our delight, And when we get drunk, start fightin’ all night. Knockin’ out windows and learnin’ down doors, Drinkin’ half-gallons and callin’ for more. Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Drinkin’ wine motherfucker, drinkin’wine! Goddam! Pass that bottle to me!

Kids in southern Virginia, near the Dismal Swamp, called it "Purple Jesus"—they'd all steal a little of their parents' liquor, drive out to some remote place, and mix it all in a pot. Sources (i.e. my aunts and uncles) disagree about why it was called Purple Jesus. Some say the red wine took over and always turned it purple. Other say they used to add grape Kool-Aid to the mix.

Either way, it doesn't sound half as gross as the milk and beer from the etymology of balderdash.

Horse, buggy, and dudes (maybe drunk on Purple Jesus) in the Dismal Swamp.
  • Jesse Earl Hyde Collection, Case Western Reserve University, Department of Geological Sciences
  • Horse, buggy, and dudes (maybe drunk on Purple Jesus) in the Dismal Swamp.

So, to review: Balderdash was mixed liquor in the 1500s and appears in one of Ben Jonson's least popular plays. A graveyard was mixed soda but graduated to mixed liquor. Spodee came from a dirty 1940s barracks singalong that had to be euphemized. And Purple Jesus is for swamp kids. And also apparently the nickname for the Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson—because he was Jesus in a purple uniform?—as well an insanely high dose of LSD disguised as a single hit, slipped to someone as punishment.

S'fut, winesuckers!****

*The etymology of boulder includes this weird fact:

... from a Scandinavian source akin to Swed. dial. bullersten "noisy stone" (large stone in a stream, causing water to roar around it).

The Swedes had a name for noisy rocks. Incredible.

**From Wikipedia: Granville Henry "Stick" McGhee received his nickname when he was a kid, pushing his older brother Brownie McGhee, who was stricken with polio, in a wagon with a stick.

***The predecessor for Kool-Aid was called "Fruit Smack." No joke.

****According to the OED, "s'fut" is a curse, a contraction of "God's foot" like "zounds" is a contraction of "God's wounds." S'fut!