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1 August 2011

Monday's word - Gimcrack

Gimcrack, orginal painting by George Stubbs
 I have Michael Quinion* to thank again for today's 'Monday's Word.'

"This word was in the news this month because a 1765 painting by George Stubbs, entitled Gimcrack on New Market Heath, featuring a famous racehorse, was sold for $35.79 million. Gimcrack was very successful: he won 27 of his 36 races in a career that spanned 7 seasons and the Gimcrack Stakes at York was named after him.

His success and the immense price for the painting are at odds with the usual meaning of "gimcrack", a useless ornament or something showy of little real worth....
...'Gimcrack' started life to describe some kind of inlaid work in wood but later changed to mean a fanciful notion or mechanical contrivance. It became popular in the eighteenth century in the modern sense. It may seem a strange name to give a horse, but as its sire was called Cripple and Gimcrack was small, it may have been a witticism or an attempt at defensive magic by seeming to disparage something you wanted to succeed. If so, it worked."

*World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 2011. All rights reserved The  original post can be found at:  http://www.worldwidewords.org

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