This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Spot the frippet: tinsel.

All that glitters is not gold - which is, of course, a jolly good thing with gold the price it is, or all our Christmas decorations would be rubbish.

It's the middle of winter in England at the moment, and that means it starts getting dark about half past three here in the south - unless it's cloudy, when the chances are it will never get properly light at all.

So we all need a bit of glitter and tinsel to cheer us up, especially if we are young and female. I can still remember getting to wear a tinsel halo when I was an angel in the Nativity play. I must have been five years old, but the glory of it still lingers.

Tinsel started off as a sort of cloth that had gold or silver thread woven through it, but tinsel soon came to mean cheap glittery clothes, and after that it wasn't long before tinsel began to mean stage costumes.

To tinsel something  means to hide the bad points of something under a coat of glitter. But, hey, sometimes, if it's a middle-aged morning face, for instance, that can be a very good thing.

Dr Johnson, though, was never one to mince his words, and he didn't like disguise, however attractive. He once spoke of discovering that someone had "That poverty of ideas which had been hitherto concealed under the tinsel of politeness." 


Spot the frippet: tinsel. This word started off as tinselle satin, from the Old French estincelé from the Latin word scintilla, which means spark.

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