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Gallimaufry: A hodgepodge of our vanishing vocabulary Hardcover – 14 Sep 2006


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  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198610629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198610625
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.8 x 13.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 466,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Michael Quinion (1942-) has been a BBC studio manager and radio producer, an audio-visual and video producer, museum curator, tourism consultant, computer software writer, web developer, lexicographer and etymologist, and sometimes feels a little tired. Quite by accident he became involved in the work of the Oxford English Dictionary and has down the years provided some 170,000 examples of new or unusual words to help revise the work. From the museum - the Cider Museum in Hereford - came his two little books on English cider making; the rest of his books derive from his etymological research. These days, he concentrates on writing a weekly newsletter, World Wide Words, and its accompanying website (http://www.worldwidewords.org); he calculates he has written the equivalent of at least two more books for it over the past 15 years. He lives in South Gloucestershire and maintains the websites of the Thornbury Volunteer Centre and of the local branch of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme.

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Review

"Michael Quinion, word scholar par excellence, provides an entertaining and informative look at many wonderful words and phrases that have mostly gone by the boards."--Daniel Boice, Catholic Library World

About the Author

Michael Quinion is a professional writer who has written widely on the English language. He was a co-author of the second edition of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words and the author of Ologies and Isms. He also manages and writes for his own web site World Wide Words, launched in 1997.

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Jan 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gallimaufry (noun) - 1. a dish made up of leftovers 2. a miscellaneous jumble or medley

Yup, that pretty much defines the contents of British lexicographer Michael Quinion's fourth book of word stories. His previous book, Port Out, Starboard Home and Other Language Myths (2004) was a surprise big seller. It was no surprise to me because I've been following his work for years. He is the proprietor of a indispensable website, World Wide Words ( [...] ) that is well-known to word-freaks like me.

'Gallimaufry' focuses on the stories behind words that are disappearing (or have disappeared) from the language. It is divided into sections on food and drink, health and medicine, entertainment and leisure, transport and fashion and concludes with a delightful section on names, employment, and communications. We get the stories behind such words as (to take examples only from the transport section) brougham (named for a former Lord Chancellor), landau, barouche, cab (née cabriolet), hansom, and taxi, among others. (Did you know that the original form of 'taxi' was 'taximeter cabriolet'? The 'taximeter' ('taxi', tariff; 'meter' measure) part of the name indicated that a cab was the first public vehicle to measure the distance a fare was taken and charge accordingly.

Quinion's style is lighthearted while learned. I found myself turning pages just to see what was next. Admittedly I'm fascinated by words, having been a reader for the Oxford English Dictionary for a number of years, but Quinion's way of explaining word histories is unfailingly delightful and I think this book could be as interesting to the non-word-freak as was, say, Bill Bryson's book, 'The Mother Tongue.' And it's a lot more factual.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bluebell TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 April 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A lot of research must have gone into preparing this book, which really is a hodge-podge of words over which the author has beavered away to find the sources of the original meanings. Some of the entries are fascinating, especially those where the original meaning has been completely lost, but we still use the word in a different context. Many of the words you won't have heard of and are so remote, and out of common use, that knowing their derivation is less entrancing. The book is nicely laid out with the key words in bold type, which makes skimming the text for words that interest you much easier. A book to dip into for a few minutes every now and again, rather than plough through from start to finish.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Quinion's Quirky Quodlibet 30 Jan 2007
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Gallimaufry (noun) - 1. a dish made up of leftovers 2. a miscellaneous jumble or medley

Yup, that pretty much defines the contents of British lexicographer Michael Quinion's fourth book of word stories. His previous book, Port Out, Starboard Home and Other Language Myths (2004) was a surprise big seller. It was no surprise to me because I've been following his work for years. He is the proprietor of an indispensable website, World Wide Words ( [...] ) that is well-known to word-freaks like me.

'Gallimaufry' focuses on the stories behind words that are disappearing (or have disappeared) from the language. It is divided into sections on food and drink, health and medicine, entertainment and leisure, transport and fashion and concludes with a delightful section on names, employment, and communications. We get the stories behind such words as (to take examples only from the transport section) brougham (named for a former Lord Chancellor), landau, barouche, cab (née cabriolet), hansom, and taxi, among others. Did you know that the original form of 'taxi' was 'taximeter cabriolet'? The 'taximeter' -- 'taxi', tariff; 'meter' measure -- part of the name indicated that a cab was the first public vehicle to measure the distance a fare was taken and to charge accordingly.

Quinion's style is lighthearted while learned. I found myself turning pages just to see what was next. Admittedly I'm fascinated by words, having been a reader for the Oxford English Dictionary for a number of years, but Quinion's way of explaining word histories is unfailingly delightful and I think this book could be as interesting to the non-word-freak as was, say, Bill Bryson's book, 'The Mother Tongue.' And it's a lot more factual.

Typography is attractive -- the subject words are in bold print, making browsing easy -- and there is a full index of the words treated in the text.

This book would make a fine birthday or other gift for the right sort of reader.

Scott Morrison
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating for more than word geeks. 24 Sep 2009
By Esther Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Fipple 27 May 2009
By Peter L. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed Gallimaufry. Like the author's website ([...]) the book is a compendium of archaic or esoteric words, or simply of fun words (such as fipple) in danger of becoming lost. His concentration on the origins and mutations of these words is, to me at least, particularly interesting. The book is composed of loose topical groupings and meanders freely through time and geography. As does the website, the books skews toward English rather than American English. I'd highly recommend it to lovers of words, esoterica or just general "stuff".
A True Gallimaufry 1 Jun 2009
By G. Patrick March - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A definition of "gallimaufry," according to author Quinion may well mean a dish made up of leftovers, but in this instance it is a treat filled with highly savory tidbits. Thorough research has produced a fascinating etymological result that is indeed a pleasure to read. Understandably, though, it lists dead or dying words that would be much more familiar to British than to American readers.
Exactly what I thought it would be.. 18 May 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I realized a little too late that the author is from the UK (I guess I didn't compute the OXFORD part right away. Lol), so a lot of his etymological definitions are for words that I wouldn't know anyway.. Nevertheless, I really did enjoy the book, I found it very intriguing, I love this kind of stuff and I'm glad I invested in this particular book! :)
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