Favourite things and their story: Curious Facts 1905

Curious Facts is a small, faded book. I think it must have come from the house of one of my aunts and uncles when we packed them up before sale. It smells strongly of perfume. I’m unsure when the bottle was upset on to the book staining the pages but the scent is heady and old-fashioned.

I distrust a lot of the ‘factual’ explanations in this book, all written in a jocular style. One can imagine some chap in a faded velvet smoking jacket telling his grandson a snippet of schoolboy information which will be remembered long after useful learning has been forgotten. I was told as a small boy that the milled edges of coins were made like this as in the past coins had been real silver and it stopped people shaving the edges. Is this true? Why have remembered this? Maybe the story came from this small Edwardian book?

So here dear readers are two morsels of learning from Curious Facts. Never let it be said we ignore the need to ‘improve’ our blog readers.


This word, meaning a crusty and disagreeable person is a corruption of corn merchant.

During a period of financial depression in England, the corn merchants were accused of keeping up the price of corn through their avarice, hence the term corn merchant came in to use as a term of reproach.


When the form of outdoor recreation now known as a picnic first came into vogue, it was customary to prepare a list of various eatables that were to be taken with the party. This list was passed around among the different women who were to make up the party, and each one picked out whatever she was willing to furnish for the occasion. As each one made her choice she made a mark or nick alongside of the item, and by and by this process of choosing became known as pick and nick. Shortened to picnic, it soon became the work used to designate this particularly kind of outdoor party.

German HansTheBigForest Blog

The image – which has nothing to do with the text but is open on our workspace at the moment- is from an early German copy of Andersen’s Sammtlich Marchen which deserves a separate blog post

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. I love hearing these stories and the origins of things. They’re curious at times. When we were in London, the Red Bus Host explained that ‘On The Wagon’, as in not drinking, was coined when prisoners were hauled down to the Hanging Tree. Their families would line the road way with last meals and spirits. Some desperate family members would try to buy favour by offering the wagon driver drinks to which they’d reply, “no thank you, I’m on the wagon”.

  2. What a treasure that book is! I hope you’re going to share more of these interesting facts in future posts.

  3. What a wonderful book. My mum had a very old copy of Enquire within upon everything, which had a number of slips of paper with homilies and notes added to it. The advice on how to manage servants is priceless. Would love to know which Eau de Cologne you have the ghost of there too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: