Obscure Curses & Interesting Insults – GRE Vocab at its Worst

One of the problems with the continued devolution (u kno wht i mean) of the English language is that we have lost our touch for awesome and clever insults. Rather than relying upon carefully crafted vituperates, most people express themselves with more simple insults. Instead of “quiet, you cretin,” we usually settle with “Oh my god, you’re so dumb,” or “that’s stupid.” These types of insults are boring! A prodigious vocabulary will not only help you ace the Verbal Reasoning and Text Completion section of the GRE, but may also allow you to use your newly expanded vocabulary to cast aspersions on friends and strangers alike.

Today’s word is … Flibbertigibbet (flib·ber·ti·gib·bet).talkative

A flibbertigibbet is a person who is frivolous, flighty, or excessively talkative. Essentially, a flibbertigibbet is someone who is annoying, obnoxious, or unreliable.

Flibbertigibbet is a particularly insidious vocabulary word because of its non-traditional etymology. Whereas most of the obscure and interesting vocab featured in previous iterations of this series may be traced across time and language, usually finding their origin in Greek or Latin, flibbertigibbet seems to have appeared spontaneously in the early 16th century.

PRO TIP: If you are struggling with committing obscure vocabulary words to memory, or more generally just preparing for this section of the GRE exam, one of the best ways to expand your vocabulary is by memorizing common Greek & Latin root words.

Because of its unique etymology, flibbertigibbet may present itself as a difficult vocabulary word to memorize. However, its origin is unique and a little amusing, the story of which might help you recall it at a later date. Originally used in the 16th century to describe whimsical and gossipy people, most often referring to young women, “flibbertigibbet” was literally a string of nonsensical sounds spoken aloud quickly, meant to convey the inane nature and speed with which young people gossiped. This expression became common, and was formerly canonized (read: the first written iteration of this word) into the English language in Shakespeare’s King Lear (1605).

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