Marguerite Durling is curious about the origins of this week's word, and even more curious to know "where exactly is my flabber and what does it do when it's aghast?"
After extensive research into your question Marguerite, I'm left flummoxed, bamboozled, confusticated, absquatulated, spifflicated and somewhat discombobulated - but barely any the wiser.
What I can say with some confidence is that flabbergasted dates from at least 1772 and may have originated in Sussex, England. And that's about it. The Century Dictionary, in the po-faced tone that dictionaries specialise in, states: "Like many other popular words expressing intensity of action, [it is] not separable into definite elements or traceable to a definite origin."
That's not so surprising. Nonsense words, like flabbergasted and the others in the second paragraph above, have a habit of appearing out of seemingly nowhere, and attempts to unpack them generally end in tears. Your flabber, Marguerite, is an elusive entity of unknown location whose name may or may not have something to do with flabby or flappy. What it does when it's aghast is equally unknown. Sorry.
One of the likely keys to inventing a successful nonsense word is to at least give it the appearance of originating from an actual word, Latin being a good choice.
Confusticated, absquatulated and discombobulated all fall into that category.
Then there are words like bunkum, which look totally made up but aren't exactly. Bunkum is a phonetic spelling of Buncombe, a county in North Carolina, USA. In 1820, Buncombe Congressman Felix Walker launched into a long, dull speech for the sole purpose of ensuring his words would be reported in the local press, and inadvertently gave us a word that not only describes most parliamentary speeches ever since, but ninety per cent of what appears in social media today as well.
One of my favourite recent discoveries is kakistocracy, a term for government by the worst people. Tweeted recently by former CIA director John Brennan to describe you-know-who's administration, it dates back to 1829 when author Thomas Love Peacock coined it as an antonym for aristocracy. It comes from the Greek kakistos - worst - which may have its origins in the Proto-Indo-European kakka, to defecate. Go, Mr Brennan!
By the way, if you're after a good read, grab Peacock's Nightmare Abbey or Crotchet Castle, two hilarious gothic novels that take the piss out of the then burgeoning Romantic movement and still hold up beautifully nearly 200 years after publication.