Words: folderol, n.

SOME OF us map out the world by reference to its libraries. Each has its particular character and use, something often indefinable but which no other institution can supply. Such as the colonial atmosphere of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, a splendid building, with a mere 300 members, and recently described in the New York Times as "not a place that brooks much folderol".

It is a characteristic of the American language not only to produce sassy fresh mintings but to revive such words. The OED last records it in 1881, and quotes Sala 20 years earlier as referring to "none of your fal-de- rol lavender books, but rigid, unmistakeable shoes". Variously spelt, it meant the meaningless refrain in songs in the 17th century, hence trifles or gewgaws.

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