Printable Version
Pronunciation: jim-kræk Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A trifle, knick-knack, bric-a-brac, a gewgaw, a piece of trumpery; a cheap, showy item.

Notes: This word was sometimes written as jimcrack, which may have led to its use in the folk song, "Blue Tail Fly", popularized in the 1950s by Burl Ives. The chorus began with "Jim crack corn, and I don't care". It comes with an adjective, gimcracky "having or like gimcracks", and a noun, gimcrackery "gimcracks collectively".

In Play: The basic meaning of the word is "cheap (showy) knick-knacks": "Maude Lynn Dresser's house is jam packed with gewgaws and gimcracks from all over the world." But it is used more often as an adjective than as a noun: "Rusty Hook's gimcrack fishing lures are better at attracting the eyes of fishermen than of fish."

Word History: This word referred to mechanical contrivances in the 1630s, though it could refer to a showy person in the 1610s. It is of uncertain origin. It could be a variation of Middle English gibecrake, the name of a carved ornament on wooden furniture. This word is surmised to be from Old French giber "to rattle, shake" + a special sense of Middle English crak "preeminent, superior", Modern English crack, as in 'He is a crack lawyer'. Gimcrack in the 18th century could also mean "person who makes mechanical contrivances". All this is just rampant speculation, though. (Now let's thank Chris Berry for recommending today's crack Good Word, and not a lexical gimcrack.)

Dr. Goodword,

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