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?
Can you guess?
Need a clue?
Think – mischievous gossip, or ‘fly-by-the-gibbet’
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!