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 Definition: A gadget or a trinket.

 Pronunciation: Tran-gram


Trangram appears in the English language around 1650. It is not known exactly where this word came from – but there is some speculation that it could be linked to tangram, referring to a Chinese geometric puzzle. And the idea of the word for a puzzle coming to mean a gadget seems to fit quite well. The words themselves are thought to either derive from either the Chinese ‘T’an’ meaning ‘to extend’ or ‘T’ang’, meaning ‘Chinese’. However, it is also possible that trangram comes from the word ‘anagram’ – itself referring to a word puzzle.

Why this word?

We live in a society of gadgets and trinkets – and, indeed, it seems that we are in constant need of inventing new generic words for these phenomena. Gizmo, Doohickey. Doodad. Contraption. So why not ‘trangram’?

It is possible that the suffix ‘-gram’ has proved the downfall of the humble trangram. After all, we live in an era where the suffix ‘-gram’ usually means that someone/thing is going to arrive at your door in some state of wanton deshabille.

How to use this word:

I suspect that trangram belongs to a different age and has probably run its course. After all, one wonders what will run through the minds of your co-workers on a Monday morning if you tell them that you ‘blew all of your money on a trangram…’


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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