Gibberish, alternatively jibberish, jibber-jabber, or gobbledygook, is language that is (or appears to be) nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or language games and specialized jargon that seems nonsensical to outsiders. Gibberish should not be confused with literary nonsense such as that used in the poem "Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll.
The word gibberish is more commonly applied to informal speech, while gobbledygook (sometimes gobbledegook, gobbledigook or gobbledegoo) is more often applied to writing or language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms. "Officialese", "legalese", or "bureaucratese" are forms of gobbledygook. The related word jibber-jabber refers to rapid talk that is difficult to understand.
The term gibberish was first seen in English in the early 16th century. Its etymology is not certain, but it is generally thought to be an onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).
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 Persian-Arab chemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as "Geber." Thus, "gibberish" was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon used by Jabir and other alchemists.
A discredited alternative theory asserts that it is derived from the Irish word gob or gab (mouth) or from the Irish phrase Geab ar ais (back talk, backward chat). The latter Irish etymology was suggested by Daniel Cassidy, whose work has been criticised by linguists and scholars. 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.
The term gobbledygook was coined by Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas and former mayor of San Antonio. 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." Later, writing in the New York Times Magazine, he 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."
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." 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." In 2017, US Supreme Court justice John Roberts dismissed quantitative sociological reasoning as "gobbledygook" in arguing against any numerical test for gerrymandering.
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."
Utilizing gibberish whilst acting can be used as an exercise in performance art education. Another usage of Gibberish is as part of Osho's Gibberish meditation which has been derived from an old Sufi practice.
In Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu, the inscription on the base of an idol of Cthulhu is first described as "gibberish" because it consists of unpronounceable jumbles of consonants, not meant for human vocal organs. It is "R'lyehese" the language of the Great Old Ones and their minions.
In the Harry Potter novels, Gobbledygook is the language of the goblins. They speak English when dealing with the wizarding community.
Other terms and usage
The terms officialese or bureaucratese refer to language used by officials or authorities. Legalese is a closely related concept, referring to language used by lawyers, legislators, and others involved with the law. The language used in these fields may contain complex sentences and specialized jargon or buzzwords, making it difficult for those outside the field to understand. Speakers or writers of officialese or legalese may recognize that it is confusing or even meaningless to outsiders, but view its use as appropriate within their organization or group.
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Subject: Lengthy Memoranda and Gobbledygook Language. Be short and use Plain English.
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People asked me how I got the word. I do not know. It must have come in a vision. Perhaps I was thinking of the old bearded turkey gobbler back in Texas who was always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity. At the end of his gobble there was a sort of gook.
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