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4 comments on this post.
  1. Chris Baraniuk:

    I was intrigued by the two words which seem to form the basis for ‘flibbertigibbet’, those being ‘flibber’ and ‘gibbet’. My friend asked whether the use of ‘gibbet’ meant that ‘flibbertigibbet’ had anything to do with gallows or execution. However, you list ‘flybbergybe’ as one older spelling and this led me to research the meaning of ‘gybe’ or ‘jibe’ which comes from an old Dutch word, ‘gijpen’ and means to sway the fore-and-aft sail of a boat from one side to the other (http://www.yourdictionary.com/wotd/gybe,+gibe,+jibe). This would conjure up the idea of see-sawing speech, wouldn’t it? Chatter seemingly darting from one topic to another, perhaps? As for ‘flibber’, well, that’s a little more difficult… Very tenuously might I suggest that it relates to the Latin ‘fillip’ from which we derive ‘flip’ and consequently may also conjure up an image describing sudden movement? ( http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fillip ) I have to admit, though, that these conjectures are most likely wishful thinking… Unless anyone else can back me up?

  2. Of cats and butterflies and the pitfalls of old words « M.K. Mattias:

    […] But perhaps all these attempts at delving into the supposed etymological roots of the word are misguided, and flibbertigibbet is simply one of those words that attempts to sound like the thing it describes. Think barnyard words like moo, oink, and woof.  This, indeed, is the explanation offered by Evan Morris (whose excellent site The Word Detective I have just discovered):  “Flibbertigibbet” almost certainly arose as an attempt to duplicate the sound of someone babbling or prattling on in meaningless chatter.  […]

  3. Flibbertigibbet | Bon Mots:

    […] about Puck, the mischievous fairy? And then there’s King Lear. Wait. King Lear? That’s what the Word Detective tells us. I didn’t remember it, but apparently in King Lear (1605) Shakespeare used […]

  4. Adam B:

    A children’s book we loved (late 1950’s) described a duck who dropped the keys the King’s Rennet Custard icebox in the castle’s moat, and swam down to get them!

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