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Paul Spalding-Mulcock
Features Writer
@MulcockPaul
1:02 AM 19th August 2023
arts

Word Of The Week : Flabbergast

 
Flabbergast - verb

Photo by Kraken Images on Unsplash
Photo by Kraken Images on Unsplash
Words, like sartorial tastes, fall in and out of fashion. In so doing, they can also become osmotically associated with specific societal hues, reflecting both the idiolect and cultural mores of those employing them.

It would be both injudicious, and incongruent to hear a pummelled pugilist tell the post-bout compere he had been “entirely flabbergasted” having found himself bested by his rival. Yet the same expression would sit well when emanating from a bumbling vicar upon discovery that the archbishop was in fact a criminal mastermind!

The etymological providence of flabbergast, whether as a verb, adverb or adjective is delightfully uncertain. It can be plausibly conjectured that the word came into our modern lexicon, but not our vernacular, in the late 18th century, with its origins murkily misted in the colloquial slang spoken in Suffolk and Scotland.

As a transitive verb, to flabbergast, is to overwhelm with shock, surprise, or wonder. The word suggests thorough astonishment, or bewilderment to the point of being almost ludicrous. This spirit of being confounded, echoes an inherent nexus with a state of dumfounded discombobulation such as one experiences when something entirely unexpected, or inexplicable occurs. Imagine Nadine Dorries attending Parliament, or running off with Jeremy Corbyn, leaving pour old Boris and her startled constituents utterly…flabbergasted!