Printable Version
Pronunciation: go-bê-mush Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A highly credulous naïf, a very gullible person who believes everything he or she hears no matter how absurd.

Notes: Admittedly, this funny little word is not a common, ordinary word that you hear around the house every day. It is interesting, though, for its etymology and the decoration it adds to any conversation. Since it is so rarely used, it has remained a lexical orphan without producing any related words.

In Play: Close your mouth!In the US, the metaphors for gullibility are buying swampland in Florida, desert land in Arizona and, if you want to go back to the 50s, the Brooklyn Bridge: "If you are such a gobemouche as to believe that I am a rocket scientist, you might be interested in buying my share of the Brooklyn Bridge." Wherever you find gullibility, look for gobemouches: "What kind of gobemouche would think that we can tow icebergs from the Arctic Circle to the Sahara Desert for irrigation?"

Word History: This word is a French compound noun (gobe-mouche) based on gober "to swallow" + mouche "fly", literally, "a fly-swallower", though it can also refer to a bird or plant whose names translate as "fly-catcher". The image here is someone whose jaw drops upon hearing a fantastic story to the point that their mouth opens allowing flies to enter. Gober is suspected of being borrowed from Celtic, though no one knows for sure. For sure it was later borrowed back into English as gobble—both the turkey noise and the impolite eating style. Mouche is the French remnant of Latin musca "fly," which shares its origins with Russian mukha "fly". It also evolved into Spanish mosca "fly" with its diminutive, mosquito "little fly". Well, you know what English did with that one.

Dr. Goodword,

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