Podcast blatherskite

Printable Version
Pronunciation: blæ-dhêr-skayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A blustery, talkative person, a blabbermouth, 2. Stuff and nonsense, gobbledygook, codswallop.

Notes: Blather (or blether) means the same as today's word in its second meaning above. Skite is probably a Cockney or Australian pronunciation of skate which, among all its other meanings (fish, foot vehicles), at one time meant "a mean, contemptible person". Skate has retained this sense only in cheapskate. A dramatic increase in blatherskites and blatherskiting has been known to occur just before political elections.

In Play: We were tempted to define today's Good Word as "a politician stumping for (re)election", but decided that this definition was too narrow. Still, 'tis the season of blatherskiting in the US, so why not: "The amount of blather coming out of Washington and the state capitals is ordinarily breath-taking, but the blasted blatherskites lose control of themselves just before elections." Of course, today's word has a much wider application; I'm sure you know someone the word fits: "The meeting was run by a blatherskite so full of himself and codswallop that nothing was accomplished."

Word History: The original word blatherskite began its life in Scotland. However, during the American Revolutionary War, the Scottish song Maggie Laude, in which this word occurs, became a favorite among Americans, so blatherskite became a familiar colloquialism in the 18th century. The original Proto-Indo-European root, *bledh- "to blow (hard)", went on to become bladder in English and bladhra "bladder" in Old Norse. However, when used as a verb in Old Norse, it meant "to prattle on", so English borrowed the Old Norse version back, giving us today's blather. (Today we are again grateful to Mark Bailey for suggesting such an unusual Good Word—and that's no blatherskite!)

Dr. Goodword,

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