northanger (northanger) wrote,


a flibbertigibbet is a silly flighty person (Merriam-Webster). which is how i feel right now with all of this curriculum bizness. thought flibbertigibbet from The Sound of Music—wrong! the song i was thinking about is Maria. How do you solve a problem like Maria, How do you catch a cloud and pin it down, How do you find the word that means Maria: A flibbertigibbet, A will-o'-the-wisp, A clown.

flibbertigibbet is {1} from Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott; {2} slang term, used in Yorkshire; and, {3} a succubus.

however, it may appear earlier in Kenilworth here (i think). but this is the stuff i love: Flibbertigibbet & Purre:

This is the chronicle of how I started out researching the word "flibbertigibbet" and ended up finding a selcouth pun of Shakespeare's from King Lear that's lain undiscovered by all but one or two people since 1603, amongst other things.

The Castle of Perseverance, a medieval morality play written around 1425, is notable for having the first recorded instances of the words flepergebet, flypyrgebet, and flepyrgebet, which were to crystalise later as flibbertigibbet. The OED records this origin as being "apparently an onomatopœic representation of unmeaning chatter" and gives its foremost meaning as a chattering or gossiping person. But in 1603, Samuel Harsnett, the forty-two year old then Vicar of Chigwell, used Fliberdigibbet (with a "d") in his hilarious polemic A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures to denote not a gossiping fishwife, but a demon.

Entered in the Stationers' Register on the 16th of March, the Declaration is a retort at the actions of Catholics at the time who were using possession by demons and subsequent exorcisms as methods to frighten the public into Catholicism. Chapter Ten is a deposition of "the ſtrange names of their deuils", and contitutes an extraordinary nomenclature bazaar: Maho, Modu, Pippin, Philpot, Hilco, Smolkin, Hillio, Hiaclito, Lustie huffe-cap, Soforce, Cliton, Bernon, Hilo, Motubizanto, Killico, Hob, Portirichio, Frateretto, Fliberdigibbet, Hoberdidance, Tocobatto, Lustie Jollie Jenkin, Delicat, Puffe, Purre, Lustie Dickie, Cornerd-cappe, Nurre, Molkin, Wilkin, Helcmodion, and Kellicocam.

Note that not only Fliberdigibbet is lifted from comic colloquial words of the time, but Hoberdidance too. Michael Quinion, in his treatment of the word hobbledehoy suggests that "it may well be related to Hoberdidance or Hobbididance, which was the name of a malevolent sprite associated with the Morris dance (and whose name is from Hob, an old name for the Devil; nothing to do with hobbits)." In fact, Tolkien subconsciously took the word hobbit from a list of untoward creatures even more staggering than Harsnett's in a piece in The Denham Tracts by Michael Aislabie Denham, so "hobbit" and "Hob" are indeed related. {continue}


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