The word “tinsel” is believed to come from an old French word, “estincele”, which means “spark”.
Indeed, a browse through media history reveals that tinsel was related to anything shiny – from military uniforms to décor.
It should be noted as well that in poetry, sermons and newspaper editorials the word “tinsel” related not only to something shiny but also to something that was false or fake.
It was not always kindly used.
From 1820 we find two examples of tinsel commonly used in the press:
From a sermon titled “Plain Preaching” came this sentiment: “I have seen poor humble mortals, surrounded by tinsel and glitter, look down with contempt upon their fellow beings, who was made of as bright and pure dust as themselves”.
A poem, in part, used the word descriptively “And here in the grave are all metals forbid, But the tinsel that shone on the dark coffin lid”...