Grammar

Bologna or Baloney? They’re Not Quite the Same

Are you hearing bologna or baloney? Is that sandwich bologna or baloney? Sometimes they’re pronounced the same way, but sometimes they’re not.

Bologna or baloney? The first word has two meanings and two pronunciations. The second is in a class by itself.

Those of us of a certain age fondly remember a 1973 television commercial for Oscar Mayer. The little boy sits on a dock fishing while singing about his lunch, an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich.

Thanks to the familiar tune, a whole generation learned that the lunch meat was not spelled the way it was pronounced: B-O-L-O-G-N-A.

Bologna is a smoked, seasoned sausage made of various meats, especially beef and pork. You can debate to your heart’s content whether it’s good or bad or whether you think it qualifies as real meat.

It’s pronounced “buh-LOAN-ee.” It’s actually pronounced the way the alternate word, Baloney, is spelled.

Bologna is also the name of a city in Northern Italy. The city is pronounced “buh-LOAN-ya.” For people who enjoy Italian cuisine, this probably isn’t a surprise, since a similar-looking word featuring the gn combination, Lasagna, is pronounced “la-ZAHN-ya.”

Some say the alternate word baloney, which is pronounced the way it’s spelled, is sometimes used to mean the meat product, though when I Googled “baloney sandwich,” all of the front-page results showed “bologna sandwich.”

Dictionary.com points out that the sausage is composed of “odds and ends” of chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. “Odds and ends” doesn’t sound all that appetizing to me.

While what we consider American bologna didn’t originate in the Italian city, it’s similar to the Italian mortadella, which did originate in Bologna.

So that brings us to baloney. which means “nonsense or foolish talk.” It can also mean information that’s intentionally deceptive or false. It entered the language in the 1920s and was originally a corruption of bologna.

Some people turn their nose up at the meat, which could have helped the alternate spelling develop its meaning of “nonsense.”

Washington State University Professor Paul Brians suggests it may have been used as a euphemism for “BS.”

So if you’re referring to the meat product, remember the famous commercial when it comes to spelling.

That way, no one will accuse you of trying to hand them a bunch of baloney.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.