Challenging Word of the WeeK: salmagundi

(sal muh GUN dee) noun

This peculiar word describes, in its narrow sense, a dish, usually served as a salad, consisting of a mixture of chopped cooked meat, onions, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, pickled vegetables, radishes, olives, watercress and other ingredients, with salad dressing, sometimes arranged in rows to form a color pattern. The term, however, is sometimes applied to a much simpler concoction: a meat and vegetable stew. It can also be spelt with a final -y instead of an -i.

Salmagundi has a much wider figurative application, as a term denoting any heterogeneous mixture or miscellany, and in this sense it is a synonym for gallimaufry or olio or hodge-podge, a medley, a potpourri, a mishmash, a farrago. A painting, for instance, or any work of art, for that matter, revealing a mixture of many influences may be referred to as a salmagundi or pastiche. There is a jocular saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. That would make the poor beast a sort of salmagundi of an animal — a little of this and a little of that. Any creation in which too many cooks have had a hand may sadly turn out to be a salmagundi. The word is derived from the French noun salmigondis, said to be based, in turn, on the Italian for “pickled salami,” known as salami conditti. Though it has nothing to do with the old nursery rhyme, the sound of salmagundi brings to mind the sad tale of

Solomon Grundy
Born on a Monday
Christened on Tuesday
Married on Wednesday
Took ill on Thursday
Worse on Friday
Died on Sunday
This is the end
of Solomon Grundy

and the end of salmagundi.

My example: The Minnesota Organization of Blogs (MOB) is a salmagundi of sagacity, savoir-faire and a bit of silliness.

From the book, “1000 Most Challenging Words” by Norman W. Schur, ©1987 by the Ballantine Reference Library, Random House. I post a weekly “Challenging Words” definition to call more attention to this delightful book and to promote interesting word usage in the blogosphere. I challenge other bloggers to work the current word into a post sometime in the coming week. If you manage to do so, please leave a comment or a link to where I can find it. Previous words in this series can be found under the appropriate Category heading in the right-hand sidebar.

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