Warbling and Garbling
I thought I knew the meaning of warble and garble.
If asked to define them, I’d say that warble means “to sing melodiously” and garble means “to distort spoken words,” or “to distort the sense of something written.”
These definitions from the OED suggest that I’m on the right track:
warble: v. intr. To modulate the voice in singing; to sing with trills and quavers. In later use … to sing softly and sweetly, in a birdlike manner; often merely a jocose substitute for sing.
garble: v. To make selections from with a (usually unfair or mischievous) purpose; to mutilate (a statement, writing, etc.) with a view to misrepresentation.
A singer might warble a song. A sound transmission might become garbled. A translator might garble a work in translation, or a sentence might become garbled when transcribed or digitalized.
The words can still be found used with the meanings I recognize:
Connie Francis warbles the hit title tune [“Where the Boys Are”].
Russia’s Mr. Trololo…may warble across America: The clip, which features Khil wordlessly warbling his way through a track … has been viewed several million times on YouTube…
Some writers seem to be using warble when they mean garble:
the person…proved your point with their warbled comment…it was difficult to even follow their train of thought
the whole table began singing a warbled but hearty version of the song
My head is full of warbled words–words that don’t quite form the pictures because they are so outlandish.
Sometimes warble and garble occur in tandem:
Like some vamp from a bygone era, Connie Chung, the former CBS and CNN anchorwoman warbled and garbled — it can’t be called singing — a farewell…
She [a court defendant] calls into question the violation of her constitutional right to have the proceedings interpreted when she says that she has been advised that the presiding officer “warbled and garbled” some interpretation to her.
The process of digitalizing audio and video seems to have revived another meaning of warble in a sense that the OED labels obsolete: “to vibrate, quiver; to wobble”:
I’m wondering if people know how a lot of the warbled/warped sounds ala Boards Of Canada/Warp Records is achieved?
I am just embarking on the ripping of old cassettes and the first one I popped into my deck today is warbled beyond repair.
I convert a lot of old time radio shows to mp3s so I probably notice it more, but once you go below a certain level of kps, you start to get a warbled quality to the audio. [or should that be “garbled”?]
And then there are the uses embedded in language whose overall meaning I can only guess at:
When i tried to open an avi file with gxine, the picture was warbled and i got an error message
I did what you suggested and it is better. The bounce to .wav played fine in the workspace. I open itunes imported the .wav then made an mp3 version in itunes. It was not as good as the .wav… thinner sounding but none of the warbling like you were tweaking a flanger.
Anybody know what a flanger is?
Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!
Keep learning! Browse the Misused Words category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!