I've been a subscriber to Michael Quinion's free "worldwide words" email newsletter for at least ten years. He never fails to enchant me with "fun facts" that both add to my vocabulary and make me giggle out loud. In this volume, Quinion organizes the words that have disappeared from English. Sometimes it's because the item itself changed (when was the last time you actually _dialed_ a telephone?). Or, as Quinion explains in the introduction, the word shifts meaning, taking on a figurative sense which then usurps the original (russet was originally a type of cloth, not a color). Or -- well, he explains it better than I can. The point is that these words have fallen out of use; he explains the original meaning and why they disappeared.
For example, in a section on below-stairs life: "The beer came from the buttery. Originally, that had nothing to do with butter, but was the room off the hall, near the pantry, where the butts were kept; those were big casks of beer (Old French bot, from late Latin buttis, cask or wineskin). The man in charge here was the butler, at that time a much more lowly servant than the magisterial supervisor of the below-stairs realm he became later." And he keeps going for a little while... never losing my interest.
Gallimaufry is separated into several sections, including food and drink; health and medicine; entertainment and leisure; transport and fashion; and names, employment, and communications.
I'm sure that most of my writer-friends will put the book on their wishlists right now (and it *would* be a great, affordable present for any wordsmith you know) because Quinion puts some magic into language and how it evolves. Surely this is fodder for plenty of Scrabble games and erudite bar bets. It is also a no-brainer for anybody who writes (or reads) historical novels. For example, the historical mystery The Nicholas Feast includes a dinner scene; Quinion's chapter, "On messes in pots," explains all the things they were eating. Mawmenny or malmeny was essentially chicken with almonds and wine; charlet (from an Old French name for a type of pot) "was usually boiled shredded pork mixed with eggs, milk and saffron seasoning."
Mostly, thought, this book is just plain FUN: a collection of bon mots and "how BOUT that!"s you can enjoy in small doses. It's found a place in my bathroom; that's actually a good sign.
I love it. I think you will, too.