There’s A Word for That: Blatherskite

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEver listened to a person talk at great length, and as you nod while listening politely, you realize none of what they say makes sense or is meaningless? Well, there a word for that kind of person: blatherskite. Pronounced “bla THUR skite” the word is a portmanteau of the English word blather, derived from the Old Norse blathr meaning “talking nonsense” and the Scottish word skite meaning “a contemptible person.” The word was popularized by the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder” which was frequently sung by the soldiers in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. “Maggie Lauder,” a song about a piper, was written by Frances Sempill (1616-1685) and first published in 1729 in Adam Craig’s Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes. Here are the first verses of the song (note that blatherskite was initially spelled “bladderskate”):

Wha wadna be in love
Wi’ bonnie Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her gaun to Fife,
And speir’d what was’t they ca’d her;-
Eight scornfully she answer’d him,
Begone you hallanshaker!
Jog on your gate, you bladderskate,
My name is Maggie Lauder.

The secondary meaning of blatherskite is foolish talk or nonsense. If you have watched a news clip of a Trump rally, you will instantly recognize blatherskite from um… a blithering blatherskite. There are many colorful synonyms for blatherskite, including the wonderful whimsical word “jabberwocky” introduced by Lewis Carroll in his classic work Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) published in 1871. Other euphonious synonyms include: babble, balderdash, claptrap, gabble, gibberish, gobbledygook, jabber, nonsense, poppycock, prate, prattle, and twaddle.

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