Gibberish and Gobbledygook

Posted on 27. Feb, 2012 by in English Vocabulary, Literature

Gibberish is a generic* term in English for speech that sounds like actual English words or language, but actually are not words and are just groups of sounds that have no real meaning.  Gobbledygook is a term similar to gibberish, but it is used to explain meaningless text or written language.  The best thing about both of these words, in my opinion, is they are so fun to say! (If you click on each of these words above you should be connected to a link where you can hear the words pronounced.  Otherwise you look the words up in an online dictionary where you should be able to hear the pronunciation.)  Both of these words (gibberish and gobbledygook) are real words in English, but they are used to describe words or groups of letters that are not real words.  An example of gobbledygook is html** or non-word typing mixed in with actual written text.  For example if I saw this in my post:

“Gibberish is a generic* term %3D%22unicode%22%3E%CB%8C%3C in English for talking that sounds like actual language 3C%2Fspan%ndadkadfjhsaoen%3D%22unicode%22%3Eu%CC%87%3C%2Fspan%3Ek%2C%20-%but actually has not real meaning.”

I might say: “How did all that goobledygook get into my post!

Often people make up gibberish when they are talking to children or acting silly, any nonsense word can be considered gibberish.  In English there is a famous poem by Lewis Carroll entitled Jabberwocky, which is written using a great deal of gibberish.  The words that you recognize in this poem, like: ‘did’, ‘and’, ‘in’, ‘the’, are English words.  The words you don’t recognize are most likely gibberish. (I have italicized all of the real English words in the poem below so you can be sure which words are which.)  You won’t be able to look the gibberish words up in a dictionary, they won’t be there, because they don’t exist.  These are just fun combinations of sounds with no actual meaning.  This is poem is often a favorite of young children, because of the funny nonsensical*** nature of it.  It is a fun poem to read out loud.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son  
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head  
He went galumphing back.

And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Here is an audio version of the poem so you can hear what all this gibberish sounds like.  Enjoy!

YouTube Preview Image

* generic = general or common
** html = Hyper Text Markup Language is the computer language that web pages are written in
*** nonsensical = lacking meaning or not making sense

Tags: , , ,

About gabriele

Hi there! I am one of Transparent Language's ESL bloggers. I am a 32-year-old native English speaker who was born and raised in the United States. I am living in Washington, DC now, but I have lived all over the US and also spent many years living and working abroad. I started teaching English as a second language in 2005 after I completing a Master's in Applied Linguists and a Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults' (CELTA). Since that time I have taught ESL in the United States at the community college and university level. I have also gone on to pursue my doctorate in psychology and now I also teach courses in psychology. I like to stay connected to ESL learners around the world through Transparent Languages ESL Blog. Please ask questions and leave comments on the blog and I will be sure to answer them.

Leave a Reply