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Archive for August 2nd, 2006

Why do we say it?

“Every Presidential message…should be (a) in English, (b) clear and trenchant in its style, (c) logical in its structure and (d) devoid of gobbledygook.” So wrote Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., in a memo as an assistant to President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The striped-pants set are by no means the only people who indulge in gobbledygook. Over the years, the Pentagon has asked for bids on such items as aerodynamic personnel decelerators (parachutes), interlocking slide fasteners (zippers), and wood interdental stimulators (toothpicks); and how about this one? Combat emplacement evacuator, (folding shovel).

Gobbledygook dates only from World War II. Credit for it goes to Maury Maverick, a former congressman from Texas (1935-39), who as chairman of the Smaller War Plants Corporation became tired of going to meetings where people rambled on about “maladjustment’s co-extensive with problem areas” and “alternative but nevertheless meaningful minimae.” HUH? He retaliated on March 30, 1944, with a memo decrying “gobbledygook language.” “Let’s stop pointing up programs, finalizing contracts that stem from district, regional or Washington levels,” he wrote. “No more patterns, effectuating, dynamics. Anyone using the words activation or implementation will be shot.”

The colorful new word quickly caught on. People asked Maverick where gobbledygook came from, and in The New york Times Magazine on May 21 he replied: “I do not know…Perhaps I was thinking of the old bearded turkey gobbler back in Texas who was always gobbledygobbling and strutting with ridiculous pomposity. At the end of his gobble there was a sort of gook.”

Makes sense to me. Therefore I will not continue to pontificate, equivocate or shilly-shally on this subject matter any longer. Anymore would be superfluous, nonsense, jargon, gibberish, mumbo jumbo, drivel, waffle, bunkum, rubbish, bunk, claptrap, footle, poppycock, balderdash, blather or Gobbledygook.  Don’t you think so?

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