Throwback Thursday – “brabble,” n. or v., Dutch

Throwback Thursday

My last Throwback Thursday post was a year ago, and I still find myself attracted to words that describe what seems to be happening in politics right now – plenty of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Today I discovered the word brabble, which seems to fit the same topic. Sadly, I no longer have access to the OED, but defines brabble as both a noun and a verb.

  1. to argue stubbornly about trifles; wrangle

  2. noisy, quarrelsome chatter

Merriam Webster indicates that the word may be of Middle Dutch origin and was first used around 1530.

Based on those definitions, we have plenty of synonyms for this word. To me, though, brabble fits a place that none of its synonyms quite covers – a loud, non-physical altercation over something insignificant. This is my reasoning:

  • Fight lends itself to describing a physical altercation. While it can be used for a purely verbal incident, that often requires clarification.
  • Argue is something I tend to think of with its more logical definition. If you’re having an argument, you are opposing each other with clear, well-considered positions. Perhaps it’s only brabble’s similarity to babble that makes me feel that it is more well-suited to pointless or rambling disagreements (or that the definition specifies trifles).
  • Disagreement works, sure, but brabble is more specifically a loud disagreement over something inconsequential.
  • Squabble tends to carry some minor physicality, to me. If dogs are squabbling over a bone, then there is often a bit of a scuffle involved.
  • Bickering seems too quiet. No one is yelling or making noise.

This is definitely a word that I could see using in a variety of situations. I also like the idea of the noun brabbler, or even the adjective brabblish.

  • I couldn’t get a word in about anything else, once everyone started brabbling about the schedule.
  • She woke up to the sound of birds brabbling in the trees.
  • It’s time these candidates started talking policy, or they’ll never come off as anything but brabblers.
  • Stop brabbling and do your chores!

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