Unlike many of the words on this blog, I do know what this word means. It means something like 'the whole kit and caboodle' the range, the spectrum. But it was only just now when I was checking to make sure that I was spelling it right--I wasn't--that I came across its own interesting origins. So here's the interesting testish part. Where do you think the word gamut comes from?
The way I had it spelled in my mind--apparently 'gamit', the way I first typed it-- it sounded like one of those Anglo-Saxon words that have mysteriously disappeared from our discourse: "I searched high and low, Squire, but the whole gamit of them hares has just disappeared." When it turned out to be, 'gamut' though, it started sounding a bit Germanic: "Wo ist der Gamut, Herr Schoenfeld?" "Der Gamut ist Kaputt, Herr Mann!"
Neither of these, however, was really on the right track. 'Gamut' is a Middle English word, but a much more ethereal one than I was thinking. It refers to a musical scale. The original word 'gamut' is taken from the Medieval Latin musical term 'gamma', or low G, which was the first note in the lowest hexachord (don't ask) and 'ut' which is the first note of the Medieval Latin scale. Don't quote me, but it seems like 'gamma' is our G (though it looks like its pilfered from the Greeks) and 'ut' is our 'doh', as in 'doh, re, mi..." 'Ut' apparently comes from being the first word in a Latin hymn to Saint John the Baptist, which ascended as it was sung in a scale like way. "Ut queant laxis resonare..." Well, you get the picture. And if you don't, I'm afraid that quoting more of the hymn isn't really going to help you.
Friday's Forgotten Books, September 22, 2017 - Todd Mason will have the links right here.
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