When I was a kid, my father, who was a very opinionated man, used to accuse anyone who expressed opinions with which he disagreed to be jibber-jabbering. I never bothered to ask him what jibber-jabbering actual was. I just knew intuitively that, to him, jibber-jabber was foolish or worthless talk, or, essentially, nonsense.
I never gave the term “jibber-jabber” much thought outside of my father’s use of it until one day when I whispered to a friend of mine at a school assembly that someone who was speaking was jibber-jabbering away. He looked at me quizzically and said, “You mean talking gibberish, right?”
“Yeah, gibberish,” I said. I was embarrassed because I thought my father, who was an immigrant, had heard the word “gibberish” and had replaced the actual word with his own made-up, but similar sounding concoction, “jibber-jabber.”
But yesterday, when I was drawing a blank about what “J-word” to use for today’s A to Z Challenge, I Googled “words that start with J,” and, lo and behold, there was “jibber-jabber.”
It turns out that my father did not, in fact, concoct the word “jibber-jabber.” The word “gibberish” dates back to the mid 1500s and was actually an adaptation of “jibber-jabber.”
And none other than Lewis Carroll capitalized on the meaning of the word “jabber” (talking rapidly and excitedly but with little sense) in his nonsense-based, epic-style poem “Jabberwocky,” which first appeared in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) in 1871.
So consider this post to be a formal apology to my late father for thinking that he was speaking gibberish when he talked about people who were jibber-jabbering.
And with that, I think that I will stop jibber-jabbering right now.