Lilian as a flibbertigibbet?

It was mentioned at the very end of Today this morning, with Keri saying that he didn’t really know what it meant, just knew it was what Peggy would have said, which sounds about right for the scripting. “I see them in my head,” and I am prepared to believe that he does.

Lilian ought to have been flattered. I have never heard flibbertigibbet applied to any but a young woman, allee same-same “flighty”: to a woman on the verge of her seventh decade it is practically an accolade, not a condemnation.


Oh the relief, coming on here and finding flibbertigibbet spelt correctly. Yes, I thought that Davies thought it meant something other than what it does. Possibly going to get modded, because the temptation to go onto the board and point out that ‘slut’ is both more accurate and easier to spell is now overwhelming.


Slut is ambiguous, though, isn’t it? Can mean slovenly. How about incontinent? That generally causes confusion!


How about “wanton”?

There are also floozy, jade, hussy, trollop, trull (ooh that suits Lilian), baggage, scrubber, slapper, drab, Jezebel, Delilah… Lots of possibilities in Roget.

Interesting, this: nowhere in the 2002 Roget’s Thesaurus is “flibbertigibbet” given as having anything to do with either dirtiness or sexual incontinence. It is only listed under “fool”, and in association with a huge list of words such as tom fool, Tom O’Bedlam, sapskull, bimbo, dingbat, giddy-head, witling, babbler, burbler and driveller.

None of the dictionaries (dating between 1926 and 1998) in the house list it as having anything to do with sex either; they all think it means a foolish person or gossip. Irresponsible, silly, gossipy,flighty person, imp.

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Having never looked up its meaning, I have always used the word to mean frivolous, flighty, that sort of thing, with no reference either to cleanliness or sexual behaviour. I say that simply as an illustration of the way people pick up meanings from usage that differ from the actual definition, thereby changing the meaning of the word.


Similar to Janie, I’ve used it and heard it as someone who a bit of a butterfly, messing with lots, settling on little, a bit of an air head and not especially calm.


Etymonline has: 1540s, “chattering gossip, flighty woman,” probably a nonsense word meant to sound like fast talking; as the name of a devil or fiend it dates from c. 1600 (together with Frateretto, Hoberdidance, Tocobatto). OED lists 15 spellings and thinks flibbergib is the original.

I associate it with the sillier sort of 1920s flapper.


Yes, exactly that for me too.

I think what I’m having a problem with is that I don’t see gossipy and flighty as being at all the same thing. Susan Carter is gossipy without being flighty. Lilian is flighty without being gossipy.


I’d describe her as a bit of an old slapper. I suspect Keri was trying to be ultra PC and avoid the accusation of sexism, and ended up speaking nonsense.


You’re probably right, not that Peggy would say ‘slapper’, I don’t think. Perhaps ‘tart’ or ‘no better than she should be’? It does seem silly to have a character like Peggy mince words, doesn’t it?

Just to add: on reflection, I think Peggy would be more likely to say ‘floozy’, which was on Fanta’s list. I dare say Keri Davies had flibbertigibbet and floozy mixed up.