I was reading a column on "gift-giving science" from New York Times, and bumped into this sentence. Can anybody explain what the sentence means? Does that mean the "fruitcake" is a sentimental gift that the recipient might cherish w? Or is it just a "practical" gift? Considering the conjunction "On the other hand," the sentence should mean what is opposed to the previous one(So I guess the fruitcake should refer to something utilitarian but less sentimental).

"On the other hand, if it’s a fruitcake, you’re fooling no one. Toss it."

(Here is the original text)

If you have doubts about the wisdom of regifting used items with sentimental value, you aren’t alone — but you may be missing out on a special opportunity. For instance, scholars at Carnegie Mellon recently demonstrated that we’re more likely to give practical gifts that seem personal (such as a jersey for the recipient’s favorite football team) than sentimentally valuable ones (say, a cherished photo we have had for years). However, they also found that recipients would actually prefer to receive fewer practical gifts and more sentimentally valuable ones.

So if a friend gives you something you truly love and you think it will make someone else happy as well, feel free to regift it. On the other hand, if it’s a fruitcake, you’re fooling no one. Toss it.


I believe it has to do with some inside joke that American people have. See here: How Did the Fruitcake Become a National Joke, and Can It Be Redeemed?

To elaborate;

There is speculation on what is the first occurrence of the hate-on-fruitcake came about but we can pinpoint one specific case. In the 1960s, Johnny Carson famously said:

The worst Christmas gift is fruitcake… There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other, year after year.

This, later on, evolved with some other references to the hate-on-fruitcake. You can read more about it on the link I shared above.

Unfortunately, there is another meaning to the fruitcake among English speaking Americans as Urban Dictionary refers. I highly doubt this has anything to do with the article you read on New York Times but just FYI. You can check UrbanDictionary.com if you want to know more about that.

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