Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Okay, first day. I'm already paranoid that I'm going to choose words that everyone else already knows, so the first one had better be good. I'm flicking through a 2,000-page 1998 Chambers dictionary that I have to hand, although I'm thinking that it's no longer very NEW, as proudly proclaimed on the cover. May have to rectify this over the next 100 days.

So, after flipping through the left-hand pages of the dictionary (must remember to favour the right-hand next time), I've decided to pick the word "flamfew". It's already marked as obsolete and it only prompts around 2,000 hits from google, which makes it a perfect word to learn and try to resurrect. Here's the definition:

flamfew n a fantastic trifle or gewgaw. [From French fanfelue] Chambers, 1998

Three problems. Problem One: do they mean "a fantastic trifle or a fantastic gewgaw" or do they mean "a fantastic trifle OR a gewgaw", implying that flamfew is just another word for gewgaw? Problem Two: Is a trifle meant to be something of little value or is it a spongy cake with fruit and custard? Problem Three: What on earth is a gewgaw? Blimey. Looks like I'm going to get two new words for the price of one today.

gewgaw n a toy; a trifling object, a bauble. adj showy without value. [Origin unknown] Chambers, 1998

Not a truly fantastic trifle cake then.

Gewgaw rhymes with "queue-gore" and flamfew is just as it looks. So, a flamfew is basically the same as a gewgaw, only a bit more whimsical or fanciful. Picture it as the difference between a nodding dog on a car dashboard (gewgaw) and a nodding dog on the dashboard of a unicorn-drawn Mini Cooper (flamfew).

More tomorrow. In the meantime I'm going to try and spot as many flamfews as I can and point them out to people.


  1. Haha, I like the idea of your blog! I didn't even know there was a London word festival, sounds fascinating. I am also from north London and REALLY want a dog, when I have space/time to care for one :D

  2. It's not too late to get involved too if you want - you can sign up here: http://www.hundreddays.net/ Re: the dog - maybe we should think about a timeshare?