Monday, July 19, 2010

Today's Word: flibbertigibbet

flibbertigibbet: A silly, flaky, or daft person; a chowderhead; Larry the Cable Guy

I had always assumed the flibbertigibbet was a relatively new coinage, but Merriam-Webster's Collegiate traces it back to a 15th-century Middle English word (flepergebet). A little more research shows that, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Flibbertigibbet was used as a fictional name.

According to Google Books, one 1789 publication called Political Adoration, or, An Address to the Devil, is attributed to "the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet." Flibbertigibbet also appears in Sir Walter Scott's The Waverly Novels as the nickname for one Dickie Sludge. I don't know which is the worse name to have.

Here's an excerpt:

I was a fool to mention the doctor's kind intentions towards my mansion before that limb of mischief Flibbertigibbet — I might have guessed he would long to put so rare a frolic into execution.

On a side note, M-W Collegiate also lists the adjective form flibbertigibbety, which is even more fun to say!