Strange English words: gibberish

Strange English words: gibberish

Have you ever listened to a baby trying to talk? They are speaking a language that only they can understand, full of made-up words and noises.

Did you know there is a word that describes a language that you cannot understand? We call it ‘gibberish’. Gibberish is a language that has no meaning. Anyone and everyone can speak gibberish. Just make up some words that have no meaning and you are speaking gibberish.

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There are two theories on where the word gibberish came from.

The first theory suggests that gibberish first appeared in the English language in the early 17th century, and probably came from the word ‘jabber’. It was used when people were talking about the language that rogues or gypsies spoke. For many people, the language of the rogues and gypsies was incomprehensible.

The second theory is that the word comes from the name of a 8th century Islamic alchemist called Jabir, whose name was translated as ‘Geber’. Thus the word ‘gibberish’ came to refer to the incomprehensible and seemingly meaningless language often used by Jabir and other alchemists of the day.

How the word started is not as important as how we use the word today. You will see the word gibberish used in spoken and written English. It is even used in one of EF English Live’s lessons. Gibberish is a noun without a plural, so if several people are speaking nonsense, they are still all speaking gibberish rather than gibberishes. However, the word is not often used in formal English. Therefore, telling your teacher in a class that they are speaking gibberish would not be appropriate!

So is there a time that you speak gibberish?

image: thebarrowboy

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