giblet

Visual: Six letters but a lot of little appendages sticking up and down – only one letter (e) without an ascender or descender. A mix of rounds and lines and one little dot.

In the mouth: When I was a kid, I thought this word was pronounced with a “hard” g, like give and gimp. But no, that doesn’t gibe; it has the voiced tongue-tip affricate that makes me think of biting little grains between my front teeth. Not that the teeth are involved in this sound; it’s just that the jaw is in that position. After that start, this word gets the tongue and lips working together before a final crisp tap of the tongue again. The vowels are mid-high and front.

Etymology: This word is said to come from Old French gibelet, which seems to have been a game stew; compare modern French gibelotte, which is a rabbit stew. Where does gibelet come from? No one is sure. It’s just one of those odd bits that appear from somewherever.

Collocations: It doesn’t go with ’n bits; that’s Kibbles. And not Green Giant, either – that’s niblets. No, you’ll find it with gravy and broth and, in plural, with chicken and turkey and sometimes other birds. (You don’t hear of it with larger critters. Why not? Because their innards don’t get included in little paper bags when you buy their meat.) And you’ll often see it near remove and discard – because that, according to many recipes, is what you do with giblets.

Overtones: This word has a variety of echoes, louder and softer. Aside from Kibbles (which may, I suppose, have giblets in them) and niblets (corn) and assorted bibelots (odd little items – giblets may be bird bibelots), you will likely get gibbet, a place where executed criminals were hung for public display and decay – the ostentatious discarding of the offal of society – and perhaps gobbet (a little mouthful) and maybe jib (related to gibbet) and glib and nibble (nibble gingerly at a giblet? If you feel obliged) and perhaps even Gibran, though there’s no profit in that one. The /bl/ might make you think of blood or of humble and umbles and maybe shambles (originally the name of the butchers’ street in old York).

Semantics: Giblets are innards, those bits of the bird you probably discard before roasting (though some people use them in gravy). The first use of this term in English, however, in the 1300s, was to refer to “an unessential appendage” (per Oxford), which to my mind makes the gibelet derivation odd. After that, in the 1400s, “garbage, entrails.” And then by the 1500s it’s those bits of the goose (or other bird) that you toss before cooking – including the feet, though those are not usually part of the giblets now.

Where to find it: You will find this word in conjunction with recipes for cooking whole birds. Also occasionally in literary prose in some cute reference to a person’s guts – perhaps “Dana was a cute bird, but if she kept on with these guys she’d end with a knife in her giblets.” It occurs to me that in reference to a human it almost sounds more suitable to small severable appendages found on only half of the species, but that’s not really concordant with the standard sense.

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