This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 18 April 2016

Spot the Frippet: Brummagem.

Mrs Elton is one of Jane Austen's most odious characters, but even she occasionally displays surprising sensitivities.

'Birmingham is not a place to promise much...'she says in Emma. 'One has no great hopes of Birmingham. I always say there is something direful in that sound.'*

Mrs Elton's opinion was published two hundred years ago, but she wasn't original in despising poor Birmingham. Birmingham, in its old form brummagem (still used nowadays in its shortened form of Brum), has since the 1600s been used to describe anything cheap, gaudy, flashy or tawdry, especially jewellery.

Nowadays Birmingham is, I'm sure, a haven of the skilled manufacture** and exquisite good taste, but the rumble of the word brummagem is good fun to say when you meet with something cheap and nasty.

And of course it's an easy spot, too.

Spot the Frippet: brummagem. This word comes from the even earlier Bromecham.

*A sentiment, by the way, much revisited by opponents of HS2, the planned new high-speed railway line from London to England's second city.

**Despite the fact that a brummagem screwdriver is in fact a hammer.

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