“Jumble Sale”

I was talking last night to Steven Rea, film critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer and proprietor of Rides a Bike, a Tumbler page devoted to vintage photographs of Hollywood personages riding bicycles. (Check it out–very cool.) Naturally, the subject of not one-off Britishisms came up, and he mentioned that the Brooklyn Bike Jumble, which, he said, invoked the Britishism “jumble sale.”

I confess that the only time I had ever come across the expression was in the town I live in, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, in which the local Friends Meeting holds an annual jumble sale–that is, rummage or tag sale. I confess I thought that the Friends had made the term up. But it turns out that it is indeed a Britishism, first spotted by the OED in 1898 and still in heavy rotation in the U.K., according to Google News.

Steven was also right about the Brooklyn Bike Jumble, in which used bikes and accessories are on offer, the latest edition of which is to be held September 8:

The phrase shows up here and there in U.S. print sources, as in this quote from an April 15, 2011, New York Times article about Los Angeles’s Chinatown:

“Cutting-edge performance artists staged happenings and smart collectors trolled to find future art stars at jumble sale prices.”

4 responses to ““Jumble Sale”

  1. The UK version of garage sales seems to be car boot/trunk sales with a trend to permanent versions of the same, rather like our flea markets. Bit of a jumble.

  2. Jumble sales are the classic fundraiser for churches, schools, etc. May they help my British brethren through austerity policies.

  3. We call them Rummage Sales . . .could rummage be British?

  4. Rumer ( [British] Musician)
    Sunday morning, filling bags with jumble and listening to the dreamy “Isley meets Bacharach”… What are your Sunday albums? X
    Like · · Share · 154146 · 5 hours ago via mobile ·

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