Let’s face it, everyone loves gadgets. They come in many different shapes, sizes and uses, but the one thing they have in common is their novelty. While it is not known exactly how the word came about there are several theories on the subject.
One such theory is that Rudyard Kipling invented the word sometime in 1904, citing the phrase “Steam gadgets always take him that way” that appears in his book titled Traffics and Discoveries. But evidence suggests that he may have actually picked up the word during a journey to India.
Another theory is that it comes from a gentleman in France by the name of Gadget who was connected with the building of the Statue of Liberty which was a gift to the United States from France in 1886. It has been said that he sold small bronze copies of the statue in New York, with his name printed on the bottom of each one; however this is false.
However, the word gadget is actually associated with the construction of the statue because the business that was responsible for creating the outer copper portion of the statue was called Gaget, Gauthier & Cie and there were small versions but they did not have the name Gadget stamped on them. But, other than the company being associated with it, there is no evidence that he was indeed responsible for creating the word.
The person who actually made the word known was writer Robert Brown in his book “Spunyarn and Spindrift: A sailor boy’s log of a voyage out and home in a China tea clipper” written in 1886 where the boy describes words used by sailors when they forget the name of something.
Most prefer to think of it as a hand-waving phrase or term for something that one has temporarily forgotten the name of; similar to a doohickey or thingamajig. Wherever it came from it sure has become a popular term.