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English word of the week IV

I started this series eight months ago and then, well, life got in the way. I have now decided to continue the series, so here is the fourth entry!


A word coined by Maury Maverick, a congressman from Texas, during his tenure as the chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II. Here is the memorandum he sent to everyone in the Corporation:

He later explained to The New York Times that the word refers to "talk or writing which is long, pompous, vague, involved, usually with Latinized words." Aka bureaucratic jargon. The idea was to draw parallels with a turkey, "always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity." Which reminds me: Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States! Gobble gobble! Børk børk børk børk!

Gobbledygook has later become a synonym for nonsensical language in the vein of poppycock and hogwash.

The mysterious galimatias

Le galimatias, qu’est ce que c’est ? Well, no one knows the origin of this French equivalent of gobbledygook. That has not prevented several languages from adopting this word.

  • Norwegian: galimatias
  • Spanish: galimatías
  • Portuguese: galimatias
  • Swedish: gallimatias
  • Russian: галиматья

Stop making fun of Welsh!

For some reason, many languages associate nonsensical language with Welsh. Personally, I think it is just jealousy brought about by having to use a less cool language. :)

  • Dutch: koeterwaals
  • German: Kauderwelsch
  • Norwegian: kaudervelsk

[Edit: This bit is misleading. Please take a look at the comment section for a more accurate analysis of these words. Also, my thanks to Multitaal and jennagabriela for pointing out my stupidity.]


The Welsh word for nonsense is lol. I assume this is a way to get back at the Dutch for using the word koeterwaals, since in Dutch lol means fun. :P

Russian magic

Abracadabra is known widely as an incantation. It may - or may not - derive from Hebrew or Aramaic expression meaning “what was said has come to pass”. The Russians use абракадабра not only as a magic word, but also when they are referring to nonsense.

Bad beer and stammering

The Swedes regard nonsensical language to be on par with lousy beer. Rappakalja derives from Finnish rapakalja (lit. mud beer), which refers to cheap, low-quality beer. It is usually translated as balderdash.

The Poles seem to equate gobbledygook with the state that is achieved by drinking too much rapakalja, since bełkot also refers to stammering.

La supercàzzola

Despite my best efforts, I am yet to fully understand what this Italian word often translated as gobbledygook actually means. I need someone to help me in the comments or one of these:


This Finnish equivalent of gobbledygook is probably a corruption of lorem ipsum, a filler text used in publishing and graphic design. The text is based on a short excerpt of De finibus bonorum et malorum by Cicero with words removed, added and distorted to an extent that the text only appears to be written in Latin.

And finally, some gobbledygook-related, Icelandic music that you absolutely must hear.

Please comment below, should your native language or a language you are learning have an expression that is similar to gobbledygook. And Italians! I need you to tell me what supercàzzola means!

Happy Duolingoing, everyone! :)


November 22, 2017



It is interesting that this word should have been coined by Maury Maverick, the grandson of Samuel Maverick from whom we get the word 'maverick'.


For some reason, many languages associate nonsensical language with Welsh. Personally, I think it is just jealousy brought about by having to use a less cool language. :)
Dutch: koeterwaals
German: Kauderwelsch

I'm sorry but "Waals" and "welsch" are old words for the French language. Nothing to with the Welsh.
(don't know about Norwegian)


Yes, "waals" is the dutch word for the Walloons. Same with the word in German. It refers to a celtic (not french) language, not only to Welsh.


When I did the research for those words, I discovered that the word refers to areas and, to people and to languages spoken in those areas that do not necessarily have that much in common: Wales, Wallonia, French-speaking Switzerland (Romandy in English, Welschschweitz in German) and Valahia. It has also been used to refer to Romansh. The Germans seem to have originally used it about Romandy and the Dutch about Wallonia, and somehow the Welsh and the Romanian (in Valahia) got drawn into this mess simply because they happen to live in areas that have somewhat similar names. In German, Kauder means “tow”, so there could be a class element or a stereotype element involved (to indicate coarseness).

I am aware that the words for Welsh in German and Dutch (Walisisch) are at least nowadays different, but the words seem to have the same root. A long, long time ago I wrote a paper on Welsh identity formation (should you be interested in the subject, I recommend When Was Wales by Gwyn A. Williams). The people living in what is now Wales did not have much of a group identity until the English conquerors showed up. After that, the word Cymraeg slowly stopped meaning “compatriot” and became to refer to a nation of people. After the annexation, English started to become more and more popular, because Cymru was considered barbaric by the English, and English became the language of commerce and education, leading to a strict linguistic segregation in the area. The English speaking Cymraeg adopted the name Welsh used by the English. “Welsh” meant “foreigner” or “British” (aka non-Anglo-Saxon). Now I am not as familiar with the history of Germanic languages outside of the British Isles, but I would not be surprised if the German Welsch and the Dutch Waals would have similar origins of referring to “foreigners”.

As for my post, I seem to have oversimplified things to save space and to make a bad joke. That is inexcusable and I apologise.


liirumlaarum reminds me on that german song, but I don't know if it has the same meaning: https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lirum,_larum_Löffelstiel


There was a strong German cultural influence in Finland in the 19th century (and earlier too due to Mikael Agricola, the developer of written Finnish, being a student of Luther’s), so your theory is more plausible than the one I discovered. :)


The Czech language has adopted galimatias as "galimatyáš", but with a looser meaning - it can be a confusing mixture of ideas, etc., not just language.

We also sometimes use "ptydepe" to refer to slang incomprehensible to outsiders. The word is a name of a fictional language from a play by Václav Havel.


Looks like I will have to add conlanger into my internal list of Václav Havel‘s achievents. Also, I would not want to be a zoologist studying wombats in a society that uses ptydepe! :P


Well they mention that his brother helped with it, so it's hard to say who was the author, but still.

I guess zoologists would have to invent their own language with a vocabulary balanced in their favour. :)

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