Monday, 30 November 2009

Movie & Vocab: Johnny English (spoke in a unclear way)

Last week, a diligent student asked me the word for describing the action of someone speaking in an unclear way. I couldn't recall the verb or the actual spelling of the word on the spot, so I promised her I would get back to her. Thus my entry today:

The first word which came to my mind that day was the term "talking gibberish", which reminds me of one of my favourite comedies called Johnny English, by my all-time favourite actor, Rowan Atkinson. (I will write the next entry to discover more about him)

Gibberish is a noun which refers to "spoken or written words which are nonsense and have no meaning", and you can watch a hilarious part of the Johnny English movie which uses this word:

Johnny English: (watch from 6:44)

(HMV is now selling it at $55 a DVD!!!)

But gibberish doesn't quite fit the word we wanted, and so I tried to recall and research, and here's what I have to share:

Gibber -- to speak quickly in a way that cannot be understood, usually when you are very frightened or confused
Jabber (away/out) -- to speak or say something quickly in a way that is difficult to understand
Gabble (away) -- to speak quickly and not clearly so that it is difficult to understand
Burble (about sth/on about sth)-- to talk about something continuously and in a way that is not very clear
Waffle (on)-- to talk or write a lot without giving any useful information or any clear answers
Mumble -- to speak quietly and in a way that is not clear so that the words are difficult to understand

What is interesting about these words are that they more or less have the suffix -er or -le in their spellings!!! I found an online book called "The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume 3 by Richard M. Hogg, Norman Francis Blake, Roger Lass, R. W. Burchfield" which talks about these suffixes on page 406. What it says on the book is that -le expresses small and repeated movements, while -er expresses sound or movements.

After knowing this, I hope you will find memorizing these words a little easier. I have also discussed -en suffix earlier on, so you may take another look if you have forgotten.

There are many other examples given in this book, so you may also learn them up.

Picture resources: