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Gibberish, also called jibber-jabber or gobbledygook, is speech that is (or appears to be) nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words,[1] or language games and specialized jargon that seems nonsensical to outsiders.[2]

"Gibberish" is also used as an imprecation to denigrate or tar ideas or opinions the user disagrees with or finds irksome, a rough equivalent of "nonsense", "folderol", or "claptrap". The implication is that the criticized expression or proposition lacks substance or congruence, as opposed to simply being a differing view.

The related word jibber-jabber refers to rapid talk that is difficult to understand.[3]

Etymology

The etymology of gibberish is uncertain. The term was first seen in English in the early 16th century.[4] It is generally thought to be an onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).[5][6]

It may originate from the word jib, which is the Angloromani variant of the Romani language word meaning "language" or "tongue". To non-speakers, the Anglo-Romany dialect could sound like English mixed with nonsense words, and if those seemingly-nonsensical words are referred to as jib then the term gibberish (pronounced "jibberish") could be derived as a descriptor for nonsensical speech. Another theory is that gibberish came from the name of a famous 8th century Muslim alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as Geber. Thus, gibberish was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon and allegorical coded language used by Jabir and other alchemists.[7][8][9][10]

A discredited alternative theory asserts that it is derived from the Irish word gob or gab ("mouth")[11] or from the Irish phrase Geab ar ais ("back talk, backward chat").[12] The latter Irish etymology was suggested by Daniel Cassidy, whose work has been criticised by linguists and scholars.[13][14][15] The terms geab and geabaire are certainly Irish words, but the phrase geab ar ais does not exist, and the word gibberish exists as a loan-word in Irish as gibiris.[16]

The term gobbledygook was coined by Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas and former mayor of San Antonio.[17] When Maverick was chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II, he sent a memorandum that said: "Be short and use plain English. ... Stay off gobbledygook language."[18][19] Maverick defined gobbledygook as "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words." The allusion was to a turkey, "always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity.""Gibberish" is also used as an imprecation to denigrate or tar ideas or opinions the user disagrees with or finds irksome, a rough equivalent of "nonsense", "folderol", or "claptrap". The implication is that the criticized expression or proposition lacks substance or congruence, as opposed to simply being a differing view.

The related word jibber-jabber refers to rapid talk that is difficult to understand.[3]

The etymology of gibberish is uncertain. The term was first seen in English in the early 16th century.[4] It is generally thought to be an onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).[5][6]

It may originate from the word jib, which is the Angloromani variant of the Romani language word meaning "language" or "tongue". To non-speakers, the Anglo-Romany dialect could sound like English mixed with nonsense words, and if those seemingly-nonsensical words are referred to as jib then the term gibberish (pronounced "jibberish") could be derived as a descriptor for nonsensical speech. Another theory is that gibberish came from the name of a famous 8th century Muslim alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as Geber. Thus, gibberish was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon and allegorical coded language used by Jabir and other alchemists.[7][8][9][10]

A discredited alternative theory asserts that it is derived from the Irish word gob or gab ("mouth")[11] or from the Irish phrase Geab ar ais ("back talk, backward chat").Angloromani variant of the Romani language word meaning "language" or "tongue". To non-speakers, the Anglo-Romany dialect could sound like English mixed with nonsense words, and if those seemingly-nonsensical words are referred to as jib then the term gibberish (pronounced "jibberish") could be derived as a descriptor for nonsensical speech. Another theory is that gibberish came from the name of a famous 8th century Muslim alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as Geber. Thus, gibberish was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon and allegorical coded language used by Jabir and other alchemists.[7][8][9][10]

A discredited alternative theory asserts that it is derived from the Irish word gob or gab ("mouth")[11] or from the Irish phrase Geab ar ais ("back talk, backward chat").[12] The latter Irish etymology was suggested by Daniel Cassidy, whose work has been criticised by linguists and scholars.[13][14][15] The terms geab and geabaire are certainly Irish words, but the phrase geab ar ais does not exist, and the word gibberish exists as a loan-word in Irish as gibiris.[16]

The term gobbledygook was coined by Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas and former mayor of San Antonio.[17] When Maverick was chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II, he sent a memorandum that said: "Be short and use plain English. ... Stay off gobbledygook language."[18][19] Maverick defined gobbledygook as "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words." The allusion was to a turkey, "always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity."[20][21]

The term "gobbledygook" has a long history of usage in politics. Nixon's Oval Office tape from June 14, 1971, showed H. R. Haldeman describing a situation to Nixon as "... a bunch of gobbledygook. But out of the gobbledygook comes a very clear thing: You can't trust the government; you can't believe what they say."[22] President Ronald Reagan explained tax law revisions in an address to the nation with the word, May 28, 1985, saying that "most didn’t improve the system; they made it more like Washington itself: Complicated, unfair, cluttered with gobbledygook and loopholes designed for those with the power and influence to hire high-priced legal and tax advisers."[23] In 2017, United States Supreme Court justice John Roberts dismissed quantitative sociological reasoning as "gobbledygook" in arguing against any numerical test for gerrymandering.[24]

Michael Shanks, former chairman to the National Consumer Council of Great Britain, characterizes professional gobbledygook as sloppy jargon intended to confuse nonspecialists: "'Gobbledygook' may indicate a failure to think clearly, a contempt for one's clients, or more probably a mixture of both. A system that can't or won't communicate is not a safe basis for a

Michael Shanks, former chairman to the National Consumer Council of Great Britain, characterizes professional gobbledygook as sloppy jargon intended to confuse nonspecialists: "'Gobbledygook' may indicate a failure to think clearly, a contempt for one's clients, or more probably a mixture of both. A system that can't or won't communicate is not a safe basis for a democracy."[25]

Using gibberish whilst acting can be used as an exercise in performance art education.[26] Another usage of gibberish is as part of Osho's "Gibberish meditation"[27] which has been derived from an old Sufi practice.

Other terms and usage

Bafflegab is a synonym, a slang term referring to confusing or a generally unintelligible use of jargon.[30]