Muscat's loose tongue prompts an etymology lesson on the term 'żobiku'

The ex-PM's choice of language in today's court hearing raised a few eyebrows, and sparked off an etymological lesson on the word itself on social media

"Dan argument żobiku."

Former PM Joseph Muscat said this with the firmest conviction in today's court hearing, which saw him butt heads with ex-Opposition leader Adrian Delia in a testimony reminiscent of a Xarabank debate in the run-up to a general election.

The hearing had its moments, but Muscat's colourful language took the spotlight on social media, and led to an etymological explanation of the term itself.

Michael Spagnol, the head of the Maltese department at the University of Malta, clarified the definition of the word in the Facebook group Kelmet il-Malti, explaining that it does in fact come from that word.

Michael Spagnol is the Head of the Maltese Department at the University of Malta
Michael Spagnol is the Head of the Maltese Department at the University of Malta

"It's interesting that it evolved from the word żobb (penis), yet it's pronounced with one 'b' and a long 'o'," he explained. "Somehow it feels less vulgar."

The ex-PM's choice of words had its fair share of criticism as well. Many found fault with the use of such language in the courts of law, and argued that vulgar terminology should not be used in any institution of high standing. 

Given that Muscat was let off scot-free by the judge for the incident, independent candidate Arnold Cassola went on to argue that no one should be penalised from using the word "żobiku" in court.

ZOBIKU It is now official. Every Maltese citizen is entitled to use ZOBIKU in court. You will not be fined.

Posted by Arnold Cassola on Monday, January 18, 2021

READ ALSO: [WATCH] Joseph Muscat defends VGH hospitals concession, rejects it was a done deal despite investors having had a previous agreement

The post on Kelmet il-Malti ellicited upwards of 60 comments in a stimulating discussion on the word's definition and derivation. Some said that they use the word to refer to a strange or hard to reach object, while others argued that the correct adjective form of the word would be "miżbub".

Another person jokingly remarked that the term "għoxxata" should now be accepted as a formal term, "for reasons of equality."