Looking for an F word…

Here’s a question for you.

Which word do Shakespeare’s King Lear, The Sound of Music, Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth, a 1970s Prog Folk group from South Africa, the Jesuits, and the Neolithic long barrow, Wayland’s Smithy, all have in common?

The exposed stone burial chambers of Wayland's...
The exposed stone burial chambers of Wayland’s Smithy long barrow, Oxfordshire, U.K. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Can you guess?

Need a clue?

Think – mischievous gossip, or ‘fly-by-the-gibbet’

Got it?

The answer is FLIBBERTIGIBBET

I’m rather partial to odd, old or unusual words. I’ve heard flibbertigibbet mentioned several times and assumed it was a word that described flighty, probably female, silly behaviour – I’ve called my girls flibbertigibbets a couple of times, although obviously this gets me the pointy tongue look of contempt – but today I was flicking through Brewer’s Phrase and Fable (as you do), and happened to read its definition.

Well I never. It turns out that it was a name given to a fiend and used by Shakespeare in King Lear, it was also used to mean a mischievous gossip and was originally a term to describe meaningless chatter.

But so happily does flibbertigibbet trip off the tongue, it’s found its way into novels by Scott, the lyrics of ‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria’, the name given to Wayland’s apprentice, and the name of a South African group of folk singers – I’m sure there are more… google it and see what you find.

So it is my F word of choice for today.

Now I have to go and pick up my two flibbertigibbets from school – have a good weekend!

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4 thoughts on “Looking for an F word…

  1. Ha! I always wondered what that line in the Maria song meant. I always assumed it was some word they made up… who knew?

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