Word of the Day for Wednesday February 25, 2004
flibbertigibbet \FLIB-ur-tee-jib-it\, noun:
A silly, flighty, or scatterbrained person, especially a pert young woman with such qualities.
We discover here not the flibbertigibbet Connolly describes but a serious reader (Goethe, Tolstoy, Proust) who found her cultural ideal in 18th-century France.
--Martin Stannard, "Enter Shrieking," New YorkTimes, November 28, 1993
He argues persuasively that Millay's reputation has been harmed not only by academics who dread and fear her heartfelt "simplicity," but by the very admirers who wished to promote her as a kind of whimsical flibbertigibbet, a poetical Anne of Green Gables.
--Liz Rosenberg, "So Young, So Good, So Popular," New York Times, March 15, 1992
Flibbertigibbet is from Middle English flipergebet, which is probably an imitation of the sound of meaningless chatter.
Trivia: Flibbertigibbet originally meant a gossip or chatterbox, but it soon took on the idea of a light-minded or frivolous person. Flibbertigibbet was also the name of a demon; it appears in a list of 40 fiends in a book by Samuel Harsnet and also in Shakespeare:
This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the hare-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth.
--King Lear, iii. 4.