Gift of the Gob, by Kate Burridge

Compiling dictionaries is tricky, especially now when English is acquiring vocabulary at such an extraordinary rate. Many new words are one-offs, of course, spur-or-the-moment, short-lived. People do love to invent words and…some even send their creations off to dictionary editors in the hope they might make it onto their lists. …Stroodle ‘the annoying piece of cheese stretching from a slice of hot pizza to one’s mouth’, like all of Rich Hall’s wonderful inventions, certainly fills a lexical gap, but hasn’t yet made it – it remains a sniglet ‘a word that should be in the dictionary, but isn’t’.

Gift of the Gob is subtitled ‘Morsels of English Language History’. It is not intended to be a dictionary, rather a degustation offering of many and varied words of interest. It begins with a definition of ‘gob’ and other words in similar form, rejecting the salivary ‘gob’ for other more interesting meanings including mouth, ‘gobbet’ for mouthful and more. Chapters include ‘Dictionary’, ‘Slanguage’, ‘Language on the Move’ and more. Burridge tracks the origins of words like ‘hamburger’ (derives from Hamburg) and follows the path past the original meaning, through the ham-burger (meat-in-bun) which leads to limburger, eggburger and more. Much of the content has been inspired by questions Burridge has received from the public, either via radio and other shows, or via contact directly with her. Information boxes offer asides on particular words or sayings, or provide answers to questions.

English is an amazing living language with words entering and leaving official dictionaries. And those who love English, do so in a variety of ways. Some want the language to stay as they learned it, with no relaxing of ‘proper’ English. Others make up words for themselves or for others. It’s a living language, and language changes in usage. Once offensive words become mild, and new ones arrive to shock or titillate. Gift of the Gob dances through the field of wild and ordinary words, bringing them all to life by sharing their history. The reader may never use some of the words examined here, but it’s fascinating to understand a little more of their journey to our modern usage. Burridge introduces and reintroduces words and their meanings in an informative yet conversational style, that excludes no one. Recommended for anyone fascinated by the ever-changing language we call English.

Gift of the Gob

Gift of the Gob, Kate Burridge,
ABC Books 2010
ISBN: 9780733324048

Reviewed by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.