Book Review: Gallimaufry

Our language is constantly changing and one of the most visible aspects of this change is our vocabulary. Words are continually coming into and going out of fashion. Michael Quinion documents some of the more interesting vocabulary changes in his Gallimaufry: A Hodgepodge of Our Vanishing Vocabulary, which has recently been issued in paperback by Oxford University Press. Web-savvy logophiles will recognize Quinion as the editor of the World Wide Words site. 

Covering subjects from food (duff, a type of boiled pudding) to games (gleek, a card game of forerunner of piquet) and transportation (barouche, a type of carriage), Quinion’s book is entertaining and informative. It’s well-researched, but since it’s written for a popular audience, you won’t find any source notes or bibliographic information.

If you’re looking for a fun and accurate book on words that you can dip into and out of at leisure, Gallimaufry is a superb choice—it’s perfect for commuter reading.

And, in case you were wondering, a gallimaufry is a hash made up of various leftovers. It was adopted from the French gallimafrée, a word of unknown origin, in the 16th century.

Gallimaufry: A Hodgepodge of Our Vanishing Vocabulary, by Michael Quinion, Oxford University Press, 2008, $16.95.

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