Random stuff

I am fascinated by words, particularly odd and unusual words. This is something I wrote a while ago…

I was busy writing and used the word ‘gubbins’; in fact, I used it several times and then I stopped and wondered where it comes from. I know what it means, it means stuff, random stuff, possibly to do with a collection of stuff like you might find under the bonnet of a car, or inside a computer, or all the extras you might have with a Christmas turkey. It seems one of those funny sounding words which you could never imagine anyone whose second  or other language is English could use totally successfully… gubbins… gubbins…

My research tells me that it is a sixteenth century word, and may come from the same route as gobbet, meaning a small piece of something. It also may come from the dialect word for fish scraps, or gadgets, or even bits and pieces of rubbish. It apparently can be used to mean a silly person, but meaning it in a harmless and inoffensive way, you silly gubbins!

I hope I don’t offend anyone who has the name of Gubbins, but I didn’t realise it was a family name; there are quite a few Gubbins about, in 1911, the last census I have access to there were over 700 individuals, which had risen from only about 200 in 1841… So I wonder how many there are now?

Wikipedia gives a few famous Gubbins:

  • Beatrice Gubbins (1878–1944), Irish artist in watercolour
  • Colin Gubbins KCMG, DSO, MC (1896–1976), prime mover of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in the Second World War
  • George Gubbins (born 1935), retired Canadian jockey
  • James Gubbins Fitzgerald (1852–1926), medical practitioner, Irish nationalist politician and UK Member of Parliament
  • John Harington Gubbins (1852–1929), British linguist, consular official and diplomat
  • John Russell Gubbins (1838-1906), Irish thoroughbred horse breeder
  • Nathaniel Gubbins (born 1893), British journalist

So next time you use the word, you’ll know that it not only means stuff, but there are some famous Gubbins in the world!

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