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

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Gombroon: a rant.

I was looking for a frippet for us all to spot the other day and came across the word gombroon

Now, gombroon may sound like a Scottish word for something terribly worthy, like biscuits made of dried porridge, but according to my Collins dictionary gombroon is the pottery and porcelain wares of Iran and China. This makes gombroon a source of wonder and delight, and quite an easy spot.

Well, I wanted to know more, so I did some research (I don't just make all this stuff up, you know).

Good old Wikipedia has some stuff about gombroon:

Gombroon ware is a form of white pottery resembling porcelain, pierced with holes or slits, and perhaps sparsely decorated with simple black or blue lines, which was created in late 17th and early 18th century Gombroon (now Bandar Abbas), Iran. It was made from crushed quartz, white clay, and frit, which when fired becomes glassy.

[Frit is ground up glaze: that is, glass, pretty-much.] 

Here's the Wikipedia illustration:

That's an elegant bowl (though not, as far as I can tell, pierced with either holes or slits) - but my problem is, who's right about gombroon? Does gombroon include, as Collins says, the porcelain of China? Or is it just this particular sort of pottery from Gombroon?

Well, to find out I went to a traditionally published source. The Encyclopedia Britannica mostly agrees with Wikipedia, though it agrees with Collins in saying that gombroon can be porcelain. It also says, rather sweetly, that the stuff's so delicate it looks like glass.

I decided at that point that I'd better go to a real expert.

The world-famous Ashmolean Museum in Oxford writes authoritatively of gombroon, describing it as soft-paste porcelain and describes the stuff as largely white and incised, as well as pierced.

So there we are. You can't argue with the Ashmolean...

...but, hey, let's put that beyond doubt with an opinion from the world-famous Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

It describes gombroon wares as instantly recognisable by their plain white body, which is sufficiently vitrified to become almost glass-like in its translucency 

though it does admit that 

the term may have been used to describe Iranian fritwares in general, and not specifically white wares.

Okay, I'm tired now. Whose definition to accept? A dictionary? A respected and up-to-date on-line encyclopedia? A respected conventional one? A great world-famous museum? Or another great world-famous museum?

Well, don't look at me. I haven't the foggiest.

Word To Use Today: gombroon. Most authorities believe that gombroon ware, whatever it was, was made in Iran and exported (by the Dutch or English) to Europe from Gombroon, now Bandar Abbas, and that's how it got its name.

As for me, I've more or less stopped believing anything.

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