• flibbertigibbet •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A silly, talkative scatterbrain, a light-witted chatterbox, usually in reference to a woman.
Notes: You might take this word up to an adjective, flibbertigibbetty, but you wouldn't want to reach for the adverb, flibbertigibbetily, for fear your co-conversationalist might walk away before you get to the end of it. The same applies for the noun referring to the stuff flibbertigibbets are made of, flibbertigibbetiness: it takes much too long to utter and is fraught with potential slips of the tongue.
In Play: I think we should not allow women all the fun of this word. Male flibbertigibbets abound: "You can ask the flibbertigibbet to tell his wife when he gets home, but there is little chance he will remember." For some reason flibbertigibbets are very popular on US television these days: "Denise Hurt loves to listen to the flibbertigibbets prattle on the morning and afternoon talk shows."
Word History: This is a fine word to throw out in the appropriate conversation, despite the risk of tripping over one of those syllables. The original seems to have been recorded about 1450 as fleper-gebet. It probably was a rhyming compound along the order of yackety-yack and yadda-yadda-yadda. Like these two words, it seems to have been an attempt to imitate the sound of mindless chatter, which is to say that it is onomatopoetic. Its original sense was a chatterbox or gossip, but over time it shifted to a flighty or frivolous person.
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