• gobsmacked •
Pronunciation: gahb-smækt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Amazed, astounded, bumfuzzled, befuddled, flummoxed, flabbergasted.
Notes: Today's Good Word is a bit of British slang, interesting because it appears to be the past participle of some verb, to gobsmack, but isn't. It entered UK English as you see it above, though recently (1980s) the verb has been extracted from it, and now we hear such phrases as "she has been gobsmacking the punters". I see no reason why we shouldn't use the verb. Just remember that it is slang and shouldn't be used on job or college applications.
In Play: This Good Word is simply another entry in the catalog of words for total surprise, sampled in the Meaning above: "The world was totally gobsmacked in 2008 by the beautiful voice of Susan Boyle, the Scot heard 'round the world." Just remember it means the absolute limits of amazement: "The financial world was gobsmacked to learn that the largest investment houses on Wall Street went bankrupt the same year (2008)."
Word History: No one is sure why or wherefrom today's Good Word arose. There is an Irish Gaelic word gob "beak" which has been used in the past as a slang word for "mouth". This word is related to gab, something we all do with our mouths. The best guess is that gobsmacked is a compound of this word + smacked, originally meaning "smacked in the mouth". The origins of smack, too, present problems. It originally meant to make a popping sound with the lips, imitating excited eating. It might be onomatopoetic in origin, imitating the sound itself. However, German has a verb schmecken "to taste (like)" with a noun Geschmack "taste" that may be related, though it could have originated in the sense of "smack one's lips". (I was gobsmacked to discover that Barbara Kelly had suggested today's Good Word last December. That only magnifies our gratitude for your suggestion, Barbara.)