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garble (gar-buhl) verb tr.

1. To mix up or distort to such an extent as to make misleading or incomprehensible.

2. To scramble (a signal or message), as by erroneous encoding or faulty transmission.

3. Archaic. To sort out; cull.


The act or an instance of garbling.

[Middle English garbelen, to inspect and remove refuse from spices, from Anglo-Norman garbeler, to sift, and from Medieval Latin garbellare, both from Arabic garbala, to select, from girbal, sieve, from Late Latin cribellum, diminutive of Latin cribrum.]

"Some other impertinent observations of Bill Bradley in action: When he says `president of the United States' in speeches, he says it as though it is one word - presnunidedstays and I wonder whether this means he feels he already owns the words enough that he can garble them or whether he's scared to touch them with his lips." Chris Heath, Taking the shot, Rolling Stone, 14 Oct 1999.

This week's theme: words that have reversed their meaning.


Language is an archeological vehicle... the language we speak is a whole palimpsest of human effort and history. -Russell Hoban [Novelists in Interview]

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