Friday, October 21, 2011

Flabbergasted: What's a Flabber, and How Does One Gast It?

"Flabbergasted" really is a word:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  1. Affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise
  2. Filled with amazement or wonder
The M-W lists quite a few synonyms for flabbergasted, which the Lemming has combined into one whacking great list. Just in case you have an aversion to saying "flabbergasted," although the Lemming can't imagine why:
  • Agape
  • Aghast
  • Amazed
  • Appalled
  • Astonished
  • Astounded
  • Awed
  • Awesome
  • Awestruck
    • Also awestricken
  • Bewildered
  • Bowled over
  • Confused
  • Dazed
  • Dismayed
  • Dumbfounded
    • Also dumfounded
  • Dumbstruck
  • Horrified
  • Marveling
    • Or marvelling
  • Openmouthed
  • Overwhelmed
  • Shocked
  • Stunned
  • Stupefied
  • Wide-eyed
  • Widemouthed
  • Wondering
"Widemouthed" is not, of course, to be confused with the largemouth bass, or the wide mouth frog protocol, which has little or nothing to do with Protocol (1984).

"Flabbergasted:" Where it Came From

Online Etymology Dictionary

"1772, mentioned (with bored) in a magazine article as a new vogue word, perhaps from some dialect (in 1823 flabbergast was noted as a Sussex word), likely an arbitrary formation from flabby or flapper and aghast...."

Words and a Blogging Lemming

A reasonable question at this point is: SO WHAT?!! The Lemming's noted what some odd word means, and where it comes from: but what value does that information have?

Knowing what flabbergasted means probably won't make the difference between picking a winning lottery ticket, and merely delaying other customers at a convenience store checkout. Memorizing that list of synonyms probably won't guarantee social acceptance and success in the Stock Market. Not even if you can recite it backwards.

A student is unlikely to find "define 'flabbergasted,' and use it in a sentence" on the next test. Particularly in biology class. That would be flabbergasting.

However, the Lemming thinks that knowing what words mean, and where they came from, has value from a 'quality of life' point of view. It's fun to discover that "flabbergasted" goes back to the 18th century, and may have originated in Sussex. Of course, the Lemming enjoys reading dictionaries: so your experience may vary.

Vaguely-related posts:


legbamel said...

First, I wanted to know and now I don't have to look it up myself, so thanks!

Second, I've always wondered how much difference there is between flabbergasted and gobsmacked. Are you up for another round or shall I tackle that one myself.

I love obscure and strange words!

Brigid said...

There's an extra line of blank space after this heading: "'Flabbergasted:' Where it Came From"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


My pleasure!

And thank *you* for bringing up "gobsmacked." Those "obscure and strange words" are fun.

Although I've learned that the appeal isn't universal - and that's an entirely different topic.

Brian Gill said...


Oops. Fixed, and thanks!

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