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Jibber jabber

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 21, 2009 at 16:32

In Reply to: Jibber jabber posted by David FG on November 21, 2009 at 08:58:

: : Where did the phrase "jibber jabber" come from? I need the year it first appeared. Also, where did the phrase "I haven't the foggiest idea" come from?

: As for the second part, something that is 'foggy' is unclear, hard to discern - for fairly obvious reasons - so a foggy idea (if such a phrase existed) would be a vague one.

: Not having even the 'foggiest' idea is having no idea at all; not even a badly formed, undefined one.


Jibber-jabber is a coupling of "jibber" and "jabber", which are themselves variants of the same onomatopoeic verb meaning "To speak rapidly and inarticulately; to chatter, talk nonsense". "Jibber" (spelt "gibber") was used by Shakespeare; "jabber" is recorded in 1499. (There are a number of similar words in English all meanig much the same thing - e.g. gabble, yabber, gab, jabble.) The earliest sighting of "jibber-jabber" recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1922, but that doesn't mean that was "the year it first appeared". Given English-speakers' love of reduplicated words (e.g. helter-skelter, hanky-panky, roly-poly, willy-nilly, hocus-pocus), coupling "jibber" and "jabber" would have been a natural formation at any time in the last 400 years, and it may have been commonplace for many years before it finally appeared in print. (VSD)