Malton Museum’s quest to revive long forgotten words

There are some great words in the English language that have fallen into disuse.  Take Gallimaufry for instance.  No, it’s not Dr Who’s home planet – that was Gallifrey – it actually means a jumbled medley of bit and pieces. Isn’t that lovely?    Or how about the so-descriptive word Guttle, meaning to gobble greedily.  Perfect to describe Christmas eating!  Why don’t we use that anymore?

Well, though a new talk, offered by Malton Museum’s Education service, we’re hoping to bring some wonderful old words back to life for our audiences in the local area.  And who knows?  Perhaps the campaign to resurrect forgotten words will spread.

What’s in a name?

That’s the title of the talk. If you’re old enough to remember the panel game Call my bluff you’ll have a good idea how it works.  With the help of a panel of three ‘experts’ – who might be museum volunteers, friends, family or even ‘pressganged’ members of the audience – we offer three definitions of a word, and then invite the audience to choose the correct one.   So, for instance, is a Carucate:

  • a spiced pudding popular in Victorian times
  • a term for a measurement of land found in the Domesday book
  • an item of underwear worn by a vicar on a chilly morning?

Hmmm – what do you think?


We had an entertaining time researching likely old words, and an even better time coming up with misleading, but plausible definitions!  As it’s a museum talk we wanted to focus on words that relate in some way or another to Malton’s history.  And as Malton has such a long and lively past it wasn’t too difficult to find some beauties.  So in the space of an hour long presentation we manage to touch on Malton’s Roman heritage, its monastic links, the brewing industry, medicine in the town, coach travel, market days and local traders, and horseracing – in no chronological order whatsoever.   Our aim is to educate a little and entertain a lot!

The guinea-pig audience

Once we’d put the talk together it needed a maiden outing – and we were so lucky with our very first audience; the Over 50s Forum, all 60 or so of them, who meet at Malton Rugby Club.   We couldn’t have had wished for a better group.  Everyone joined in with great enthusiasm. They showed real ingenuity in wrinkling out the correct definitions for some of the words but, to our secret satisfaction, were hoodwinked and bamboozled by other made-up explanations!   And, it was great at the end to chat with people who had their own stories to tell about some of the topics we had discussed and learn a little more about Malton’s colourful history.

Looking for more groups to Jargogle (to confuse or bewilder)

We already have bookings in 2018 for this talk, and for the other talks offered by the Education Service to adult groups.  But we’d love to introduce lots more people to the wonderful world of archaic wordery. So if you’re involved with any groups of societies who are looking for a speaker, do tell them to get in touch with Margaret Shaw, Volunteer and Learning Manager on 01653 691262 or to make a booking.   Margaret is definitely not an Ultracrepidarian (somebody who gives opinions on subjects they know nothing about) and would love to hear from you.

Christine Pietrowski


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