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For me, the term garbledy gook simply means garbage; unintelligible text or speech. An example usage would be:

If you open that binary file in notepad, you'll just see a load of garbledy gook

However, I just used this on the phone to a customer and, as I said it, I wondered about the origins. The word gook by itself is a racist or derogatory term for people of south east Asian origins (source) and the last thing I want to do at work (or anywhere, to be honest!) is use that kind of language.

Where did this phrase come from? Does it have origins in racism?

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Gobbledygook. The etymology explains that it alludes to the sounds made by turkeys. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 1 '12 at 15:54
Why did you add that as a comment and not an answer? –  LordScree Jun 1 '12 at 15:56
I suppose because this might be closed as general reference (although that can fail without the correct spelling), and I didn't want any undue rep that would disappear later. (^_^) –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 1 '12 at 15:57
Where I come from gook is pronounced completely differently than the racist epithet. –  horatio Jun 1 '12 at 19:49
It has no racist connotations at all, but alas, neither does "niggardly," and an aide to the mayor of Washington, D.C. was forced to resign in 1999 over using it, nor "picnic," which an officer of the State University of New York at Albany disallowed for an event honoring Jackie Robinson in 2000 based on the false claim that "picnic" refers to lynching. I would also advise against saying that anyone sounds like a water buffalo in Philadelphia. –  choster Jun 1 '12 at 22:01

1 Answer 1

up vote 14 down vote accepted

The word is spelled gobbledygook and does not have racist origins (although they are fowl). Here is the etymology:

also gobbledegook, "the overinvolved, pompous talk of officialdom" [Klein], 1944, Amer.Eng., first used by U.S. Rep. Maury Maverick, D.-Texas, (1895-1954), a grandson of the original maverick and chairman of U.S. Smaller War Plants Corporation during World War II. First used in a memo dated March 30, 1944, banning "gobbledygook language" and mock-threateaning, "anyone using the words activation or implementation will be shot." Maverick said he made up the word in imitation of turkey noise. Another word for it, coined about the same time, was bafflegab (1952).

Edit: As JLG says, "Wikipedia's entry is pretty good, too.

Gobbledygook or gobbledegook (sometimes gobbledegoo) is any text containing jargon or especially convoluted English that results in it being excessively hard to understand or even incomprehensible. "Bureaucratese" is one form of gobbledygook.

There are two distinct and opposite cases. One is that incomprehensible material is actual gibberish. In the other some abstruse material is either ineptly presented or is subjectively perceived to be gibberish due to a lack of preparation.

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Bafflegab is awesome. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 1 '12 at 16:02
I'll have to work bafflegab into a report sometime. "Cut the technical bafflegab; you're not being paid by the word." –  Gnawme Jun 1 '12 at 16:12
Wikipedia's entry is pretty good, too. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gobbledygook . And to answer your question, no, its origins are not racist. –  JLG Jun 1 '12 at 16:17
@JLG what if I enjoy your comments? :) –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 1 '12 at 21:38
@cornbreadninja Bafflegab is reminiscent of Balderdash, another of my favorites. "Cut the technical bafflegab; it's just balderdash, and you're not being paid by the word anyway." –  g33kz0r Jun 2 '12 at 2:37

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