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The term gibberish was first seen in English in the early 16th century.[4] Its etymology is not certain, but it is generally thought to be an onomatopoeia imitative of speech, similar to the words jabber (to talk rapidly) and gibber (to speak inarticulately).[5][6]

It may originate from the word jib, which is the Angloromani variant of the Romani language word meaning "language" or "tongue". To non-speakers, the Anglo-Romany dialect could sound like English mixed with nonsense words, and if those seemingly-nonsensical words are referred to as "jib" then the term "gibberish" (pronounced "jibberish") could be derived as a descriptor for nonsensical speech. Another theory is that gibberish came from the name of a famous 8th-century Persian-Arab alchemist, Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as "Geber." Thus, "gibberish" was a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon and allegorical coded language used by Jabir and other alchemists.[7][8][9]

A discredited alternative theory asserts that it is derived from the Irish word gob or gab (mouth)[10] or from the Irish phrase Geab ar ais (back talk, backward chat).[11] The latter Irish etymology was suggested by Daniel Cassidy, whose work has been criticised by linguists and scholars.[12][13][14] The terms geab and geabaire are certainly Irish words, but the phrase geab ar ais does not exist, and the word gibberish exists as a loan-word in Irish as gibiris.[15]

The term gobbledygook was coined by Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas and former mayor of San Antonio.[16] When Maverick was chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II, he sent a memorandum that said: "Be short and use Plain English. . . . Stay off gobbledygook language."[17][18] Later, writing in the New York Times Magazine, he defined gobbledygook as "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words." The allusion was to a turkey, "always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity."[19][20]

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