Why I’m flibitygibity

Over the last few months I have been studying a module on Discourse Analysis as part of an MSc course. I have been a bit reticent about posting up my reflections about what I was learning or about using any of the ideas that I came across.
I thought that I could try and use some of the ideas about Discourse Analysis (DA) to unpick the name I have for this blog and on Twitter – Flibitygibity.
One of the tools available in DA is to consider why alternate words are not used in a particular circumstance. The name I normally use to label writing I do is “Amanda” or “Amanda Williams” and in the past I used my maiden name. I didn’t use that for purely practical reasons, my name is not unique. Some people get round that by adding letters, like CPA or MD afterwards. If I had gone down that route I would have to choose which of my letters to put after my name and I didn’t want to pin it down to a particular identity. One feature of DA is the way that the words we choose place us within different groups.
Picking specific letters would not just have placed me as “a chartered accountant” or “a teacher” to give two of the possible identities I could have selected, it would also have placed my blogs and tweets on a specific footing, as someone speaking from a professional perspective, or an educational perspective. It might have made it harder to post reflections where I was speaking as a student, for example.
So why select “Flibitygibity”. This name might make you think of Maria in The Sound of Music ‘a flibbertigibbet! a will-o’-the wisp! a clown!’ as most of the nuns see her. That is not why I chose the name, but nonetheless, that specific use of the word creates some of the meaning associated with its use in other circumstances. I was called a flibbertigibbet by a female relative when I was a 19 year old university student. That wasn’t necessarily how I saw myself (or how the character of Maria saw herself). One of the aspects of DA that I find both interesting and challenging to understand is the idea of subject positions. We have a part to play in creating our own subject positions but they are also constructed through how others see us. And describe us.
There are different types of DA and I am particularly interested in exploring Foucauldian Discourse Analysis (FDA) further. FDA looks at the history of a Discourse so that you can understand big themes like criminality or madness. Old ideas inform current ones.
When I write about “serious matters of business” one voice sitting on my shoulder as I write is that of a Harry Enfield sketch from around 1990. It is set in the 1950’s. There is a group of be-suited men and their wives at a dinner party. One of the women starts to comment on role of the gold standard. The dinner party ends in embarrassment. The punchline flashed up like a health warning is “Women! Know your place!”
Flibbertigibbet is not a particularly flattering way to describe someone. It can be defined as a gossiping, chattering, young woman. The derivation of the word is unknown but one possibility is that it is the name of the shrieking banshee-like spirits that flew past a gallows – fly-by-the-gibbet.
I have also clearly spelled it wrong – this came down to the issue of unique user names on Twitter, and my own poor spelling.
So why have I stuck with it? Partly as a way to subvert the things that might keep me quiet (including my spelling!); mainly assumptions about who has authority to speak about corporate governance, financial reporting and other serious matters of business. I like the way that a word like flibitygibity has meaning that not only changes through use, but conveys its opposite, so perhaps a punishing gallows ghost also conveys understanding judgement, and a youthful chatterbox has seeds of serious reflective comment.


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