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Jibber jabber

Posted by Gary Martin on November 22, 2009 at 11:58

In Reply to: Jibber jabber posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 21, 2009 at 16:32:

: : : 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.

: : DFG

: 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)

Yes, the OED is rather out of date on that one. Jibber-jabber appeared in Abel Boyer's 1751 English/French Dictionary - defined as 'to speak gibberish'.