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.
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