from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A paragraph describing something wonderful, used to fill out a newspaper column; -- an allusion to the miracle of Balaam's ass speaking.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. Matter regarding marvelous and incredible events inserted in a newspaper to fill space.
- n. Same as balaam-box.
Sorry, no etymologies found.
The kind of "balaam," the stock repetitions and expletives at which Chaucer laughs in "Sir Thopas" -- a laugh which has been rather unjustly received as condemning the whole class of English romances -- is very evident even in the French texts.
I must get a friend's assistance for the scientific part, and add some balaam of mine own (as printers 'devils say) to make up four or five pages.
General Gourgaud, with some cautious balaam from mine honest friend, alarmed by a Highland Colonel, who had described Gourgaud as a _mauvais garçon_, famous fencer, marksman, and so forth.