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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 (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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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.

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
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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
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Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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Gallimaufry: A hodgepodge of our vanishing vocabulary
Gallimaufry: A hodgepodge of our vanishing vocabulary by Michael Quinion (Paperback - 11 Sep 2008)
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