Gibberish or gobbledygook refer to speech or other use of language that is nonsense, or that appears to be nonsense. It may include speech sounds that are not actual words, or forms such as language games or highly specialized jargon that seems non-sensical 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 speech, while gobbledygook (sometimes gobbledegook or gobbledegoo) is more often applied to writing. "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 onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the related words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).
Less widely accepted theories assert 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.
Another theory is that gibberish comes from the name of the famous 8th-century Islamic alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as "Geber", thus the term "gibberish" arose as a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon often used by Jabir and other alchemists who followed.
According to Michael Quinion on his World Wide Words website gobbledygook was first coined on 21 May 1944 by Maury Maverick, a congressman from Texas. His comments, recorded in the New York Times Magazine, were made when Maverick was the Democratic chairman of the US Congress Smaller War Plants Committee. He was being critical of the obscure language used by other committee members. The allusion was to a turkey, "always gobbledy gobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity." It is sometimes abbreviated slightly to gobbledygoo.
Contemporary reports, as shown by a United Press dispatch published in the Pittsburgh Press, identify the date of Maverick's statement as March 31. Maverick's message includes the following sentence: "Stay off the gobbledygook language. It only fouls people up."
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."
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.
Other Terms And Usage
The terms officalese 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.
Bafflegab is a synonym, a slang term referring to confusing or a generally unintelligible use of jargon.