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Gallimaufry: A hodgepodge of our vanishing vocabulary [Hardcover]

Michael Quinion
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

14 Sep 2006
What is a gallimaufry anyway? And when did you last hear someone refer to the wireless? What was the original paraphernalia? Would you wear a billycock? Language is always changing, and here Michael Quinion, author of the bestselling POSH and other language myths , has gathered together some fascinating examples of words and meanings which have vanished from our language. Sometimes a word is lost when the thing it describes becomes obsolete, sometimes it survives in a figurative sense while the original meaning is lost, and sometimes it simply gives way to a more popular alternative. The story of these and many other words opens a window into the lives of past speakers of the English language.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (14 Sep 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198610629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198610625
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 16.3 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 737,760 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quinion's Quirky Quodlibet 30 Jan 2007
By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
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
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to dip into 23 April 2008
By Bluebell TOP 100 REVIEWER
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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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
5.0 out of 5 stars 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
4.0 out of 5 stars 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".
2.0 out of 5 stars Full of old words, but reads like a list 27 Feb 2014
By C. Broussard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Old words amuse me, but this book is really just a list of old words. It doesn't delve into the history or etymology of them like I had expected. It's more like "WEIRDWORD" used to mean a grey pudding made out of oats. It was a little different from "SIMILARWORD" which used barley. Page after page of that, organized into chapters based on topic. Not the novel and interesting book I expected.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating word origins. 24 April 2013
By John Fulford - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is a book for those who are intrigued by the extraordinary variety of English words. Written by an expert and extremely well researched it is also light reading that can be put down and picked up any time. As an author, I was fascinated by the wide variety and strange histories of the words and learned something new on every page, if not every paragraph. These are words we use every day but their original meanings are often far removed and sometimes quite different. Surprise yourself.
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