Derived from folk etymology gobbledygook is as much fun to say as it is to learn the story of how Maury Maverick who served in the U.S. House of Representatives coined the word. This facetious formation of a word is humorously long and akin to others such as skedaddle, spifflicate, splendiferous, spondulicks, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and transmogrify. It first made it's appearance in American lexicon in 1944. A noun pronounced /'gä-b&l-dE-"guk or /'gä-b&l-dE-"gük/, a good synonym would be doublespeak or bafflegab.
Aptly enough the tale begins two generations earlier with Maury's grandfather, Samuel Maverick a Texas cattleman who was infamous for not branding his cattle and allowing them to roam free. Neighboring ranchers would adopt these unbranded animals and call them "Mavericks" By the end of the 19th century maverick came to mean any kind of rootless wanderer or rebel.
During World War II Maverick's grandson Maury Maverick was in charge of overseeing the United States Smaller War Plants Corporation for the war effort. Frustrated with this position he explained the onomatopoeic word came from the combining the verablese of turkeys with politicians and described it as "that terrible, involved, polysyllabic language those government people use in Washington."
(Those turkeys in Texas were) ... always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ludicrous pomposity. At the end of this gobble there was a sort of gook.
is the guttural, chortling sound of a male turkey and Representative Maverick decided that a lot of what many called "official prose" among the politicians was really gobbledygook
. Maverick went on to issue a memorable edict stating that "Anyone using the words 'activation' or 'implementation' will be shot." Sadly though, no bureaucrat was ever actually shot.
A good gobbledygook phrase will be composed in the passive form and have strong verbs which overcome weaker nouns and thrown in is plenty of deadwood to get in the way of direct communications. Here is a little snippet of a prize winning gobbledygook:
"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."
Judith Butler, professor of rhetoric and comparative literature, University of California 1997
Amazingly today there are even translations of this impenetrably dense and possibly meaningless writing. Here are some samplings of gobbled and ungobbled gook:
give consideration to = consider
make inquiry regarding = inquire
is of the opinion = believes
comes into conflict with = conflicts
confidential nature = confidential information
of an indefinite nature = indefinite
in order to = to
in this day and age = today (or) now
with reference to = concerning
at this point in time = now
has the ability to = because (or) since
take the place of = substitute
utilize = use
to be cognizant of = to know
to endeavor to = try
effectuate = do
These euphemisms and its inflated 'Governmentese' became so confusing that by 1974 the United States Army published a reference dictionary for the Department of Defense
about this unintelligible jargon entitled On Gobbledygook
by Argus J.Tresidder. For everyone who is mystified with the endless stream of all kinds bureaucratic initializing that infests the world today there is more help through a book that you might find at your local library entitled The Gobbledygook Book : Dictionary of Acronyms Abbreviations Initializations & Esoteric Terminology
by Franklin W. Fox .
Today gobbledygook, folderol, and foolishness has become a vital global force. In response to all of this doublespeak the Plain English Campaign initiated a Writers Resources Style Guide whose purpose is to ' destroy gobbledygook, legalese, small print and bureaucratic language.' Funded by professional services The Campaign includes editing, writing, design and training in plain English for many of the United Kingdom's largest companies, as well as government departments and local authorities. It employs a modern day gobbledygook generator for those looking for managerial positions containing " lost or meaningless, empty phrases that make a person look ' in the know.'" If you would like read some postmodern gobbledygook visit www.plainenglish.co.uk/generator.html .
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