“Bafflegab” means confusing, bureaucratic, incomprehensible jargon; gobbledegook, or pretentious verbiage.

And yes, we know where this one came from, thanks to World Wide Words.

On January 19, 1952, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that an award in the form of a plaque had been presented to Milton A Smith, to honor his creation of the new and invaluable word. Mr. Smith was assistant general counsel for the US Chamber of Commerce. It was presented by Michael V DiSalle, the head of the Office of Price Stabilization, who was burdened with the title of Price Stabilizer.

Milton Smith coined the word in a piece he wrote for the Chamber’s weekly publication, Washington Report, which criticised the Office of Price Stabilization for the bureaucratic language it used in one of its price orders. 

This article was picked up by the Bellingham Herald in Washington State, which wrote an editorial about it, saying, “Gobbledegook is mouth-filling, but it lacks the punch of bafflegab. The inventor of that one deserves an award.” The newspaper made sure he got one by paying for the plaque to be made and organising its presentation.

The inventor said he had spent a maddening day trying to explain the OPS order to a colleague and decided a special word was needed to describe its special blend of “incomprehensibility, ambiguity, verbosity and complexity.”

At the presentation, Milton Smith was asked to briefly define his word. It was, he said succinctly, “multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.”

Okay, if you say so.

  One thought on “bafflegab

  1. Leanne Taylor
    August 9, 2020 at 10:15 am

    I do say so:-).
    What a great word – words.
    LOL at Mr Smith’s definition.
    Thank you for your entertaining article, iblt!


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