A New Word: Gimcrack

Last night I learn a new word: gimcrack.

Gimcrack! It’s fun to say. It means “flimsy or poorly made but deceptively attractive” as in the gimcrack prom dress sparkled fake diamonds while the hemline fell. You can call a beautiful meal without a pleasant taste a gimcrack dinner. You can talk about your gimcrack room that’s perhaps falling apart underneath the pretty wallpaper.

You can point to something in a store that’s wildly overpriced for the quality as being just gimcrack. It’s both an adjective and a noun. So you might collectively call the pile of glitzy objects in the corner your pile of gimcrack.

I’ve never in my life used or heard the word. But it’s a useful one, especially when you think of gimcrack arguments or ideas. To know that we live in a world surrounded by deceptively attractive things that, when tested by scripture, don’t hold up, matters. And there’s a word for that problem.

It’s gimcrack.

(And I just found a 17th century usage of “gimcrackery” for a foolish idea. I can imagine people shouting, “That’s just gimcrackery.” Furthermore, I understand gimcrack as a word is not completely out of use. The Oxford English Dictionary reports that you might hear the word gimcrack 0.01 and 0.1 times per million words in typical modern English usage. While not often heard, I’m told the word is also not completely obsolete. There’s hope for gimcrack!)

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