• gibberish •
jib-êr-ish • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: Inarticulate chatter, jargon, gobbledegook, unintelligible verbiage belonging to no known language.
Notes: This word is derived from gibber "inarticulate speech" + -ish, a suffix associated with foreign languages, e.g. Turkish, Swedish, and Danish. It implies a language made up of inarticulate speech.
In Play: We usually use this word to refer to specialized language that is incomprehensible: "The doctor read something from a medical book on his desk that was all gibberish to me." However, we do have practitioners of gibberish: "Sarah Palin, the ex-semigovernor of Alaska, is known for her gibberish that many US voters find convincing."
Word History: As already mentioned, gibberish is based on gibber. Most dictionaries list it as imitative in origin; however, we find historical evidence of it in most Indo-European languages. It belongs to a class of human and loud bird noises that includes jabber, a synonym of gibber, and gaggle, the sounds geese make. Gaggle is a variant of cackle, the noise chickens make. This word is clearly pan-Germanic, for we find Dutch kakelen, Swedish kackla, Danish kagle, and German gackeln. But similar words also appear in ancient PIE languages like Latin cacabare "cackle", Greek kakkaxein "cackle", and Sanskrit kakas "crow, raven". These suggest all these words are derived from PIE. (Chris Stewart, our word-spotter in South Africa, speaks no gibberish when he recommends fine Good Words like today's.)
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