As Galimathias, also Gallimathias, is called confused, incomprehensible or even meaningless talk (cf. Kauderwelsch). The noun can nowadays be regarded as archaism, as it is already documented since the 16th century and is used, for example, in the satire Ménippée (1594) as jargon de galimatias, and is often found in (written) critiques. In addition, there were Nonsens-couplets, also known as Galimathias, in the Old Viennese Volksstheater. These were nonsensical singing inserts, which interrupted the action of antics as well as comedies, and which were performed with great success – for example, by actors such as Wenzel Scholz (1787-1857). However, the exact origin of the term is still unclear.
Often an anecdote is given as the origin of the term: It is said that once an expert witness for a man named Matthias, who stood for a stolen cock in court. He wanted to testify to Matthias, using the Latin phrase Gallus Mathiae for the cock of Matthias, but he did not use the words and spoke of Galli Mathias, the Mathias des Hahn, which made his confused speech incomprehensible. However, this assumption is not assured.
A further theory assumes that the term originates from the Paris student language and originally refers to Streithähne. The disputants – that is, doctoral students who defended their doctoral thesis (see Disput) – at the Sorbonne, the Paris university, were called galli (Latin taps). The second part of the word would then be borrowed from the Greek word mathesis, which can be translated with knowledge. Thus Galimathias would be the knowledge of cocks, which seems incomprehensible to outsiders (cf. Fachargon).
In part, however, the satire Ménippée (1594) is given as origin and not just as a proof of the use of the word. This work (in prose and verse) criticizes the political situation in France and calls a place called Galimathie, whose inhabitants are not clearly articulated and thus hardly understood by outsiders. Their language is called jargon de galimatias.
Nevertheless, the term is often documented in literary criticism, when individual writings – sometimes clearly polemical – are dismissed as Galimathias and thus as incomprehensible talk. The word is then quickly found in the literature, as in Eduard Mörike’s novelist Nolten. There is the passage in the third chapter:
The wondrous man did not want to notice my astonishment, he was reaching for the hat, as I drew him down to a seat, and called for further discussion. But it goes beyond all the description of the strange mixtures of Galileo’s most insipid and nonsensical character, with individual, extremely piquant streaks of shrewdness, which man has now spoken against me in a sweetly whispering language. All this combined, and the unsuitable giggle with which he seemed to mock himself and me, left no doubt that I had here the rarest example of madness that had ever befallen me.
In the example above it is seen that the term is fundamentally negatively connoted and in this case is interpreted as a sign of craziness. Consequently, if it is assumed that the origin actually lies in the disputes of the French doctoral students at the Sorbonne, we would have to do with a depreciation of meanings. In addition, an epigram by the poet Franz Grillparzer, which dates back to the year 1854, bears the title in the title:
If an author is dark,
Let your eyes be joined.
Least of all complain about the night
The same with day blinds.
Short overview: The most important part of the term at a glance
As Galimathias, also Gallimathias, is called confused and unintelligible or even senseless talk. Accordingly, the term is negatively connotated and can be interpreted as synonymous with the concept of gobbling, whereby it is usually used as an attack.
However, there are indications that the term originally came from the Parisian student language of the 16th century, and the unintelligible talk of the contending doctoral students then followed. Consequently, the term would be rather humorous in the true sense of the word, and consequently would have undergone a change of meaning only afterwards.
Note: The term is used exclusively in the Singular (Singularetantum) and carries a male article. It is called “Galimathias” and is the same in every case.