Posted by James Briggs on August 18, 2002

In Reply to: Gubbins??? posted by TheFallen on August 18, 2002

: : Mother often says "Don't give me an of your old gubbins". Now I know she means not to talk back or make excuses, but is there a background to that statement?

: Gubbins is a chiefly British and by now old-fashioned slang term that originally meant the fragments of something. It then became used to describe an amount of nondescript (and presumably useless) bits and pieces - "I can't even get into the shed because your father's got all his old gubbins lying around." - and therefore figuratively to mean unimportant nonsense, as in your mother's phrase. It almost invariably is used with the adjective old, as you suggest. The origins of the word according to my dictionary are unclear, but it suggests that it probably sprang from a now long-dead word "gobbon", itself related to "gobbet".

Gubbins: A load of gubbins is a saying used to describe poor quality goods or thoughts; the dregs. The Gubbins were the wild and savage inhabitants of an area near Brentor in Devon in the 17th century. They, in turn, were so called after the name for the near worthless shavings after fish had been scaled. Why the shavings were called gubbins is another matter.