Was perusing another Christmas gift last night, Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction’ (some very amusing writing by the way), when Neil Gaiman in the introduction, and Terry by the third article in, both mentioned Reverend E. Cobham Brewer’s ‘Dictionary of Phrase and Fable’, first published in 1870, as one of their main reference works.

I googled said work and am astonished to learn such a depository of knowledge has existed for over a century and I am only just learning about it! New Year’s resolution – obtain at least one edition of this book, possible more by month’s end!

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

9 Comments
  1. Ezra Yesterday 3 years ago

    I just found and purchased a 1956 edition online for 10 bucks including shipping…
    There is also another book by him called A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar in the Amazon Kindle store for free.

  2. Forlath Grey 3 years ago

    This is great stuff, a reminder of why I find the 19th century so engaging. Is the possible explanation for the prolifically studious nature of the Victorians, the plain and simple lack of personal electronics in an age of greatly expanded leisure time?

    Yes, yes, we have more than our share of inquisitive and clever people in our modern age, obviously, but it seems like an inordinate amount of 19th century individuals outside of academia were conducting their own research, purely as hobbies on practically every topic under the sun.

    I mean surely someone who spends seven years of their life conducting pea plant experiments, ushering in the age of modern genetics must have done so because they were bored out of their mind . . . just a thought . . .

  3. Just Justine 3 years ago

    I guess it depended on the individual, and also their status in society as to how much leisure time they had?
    Much like today. It’s all about how one wishes to spend said leisure time.
    There is no end to discovery.

  4. Forlath Grey 3 years ago

    You’re right of course Just, the creativity of our little group alone is enough to rival any 19th century monk . . . Now, I wonder what you’d get if you gene spliced an Ezra with a Professor Extreme . . .

  5. Just Justine 3 years ago

    I think you forgot the ‘eys’. after all, isn’t it a known fact that a room full of them wrote for Shakespeare?

  6. Just Justine 3 years ago

    I suppose monks had nothing better to do with their time besides praying, transcribing books and making wine/beer.
    Guess they had to keep busy, idle hands and all that.
    I read where if it wasn’t for them, civilization may have been lost during the middle (dark?) ages, being some of the few who knew how to read, write and experiment on peas. 🙂

  7. Forlath Grey 3 years ago

    Mendel conducted his pea plant experiments in the 19th century, but your point is well taken. There is a current school of thought the ‘dark ages’ weren’t so dark after all, and the ‘barbarian hordes’ had quite a sophisticated civilization, but I digress. Here a sample of Mendel’s work . . .

    Mendel's Genetic Experiments

  8. Just Justine 3 years ago

    Looking at that brought this to mind-
    Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
    Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
    Some like it hot, some like it cold,
    Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

    So what’s the expiration date on pease porridge? Is it safe to eat after nine days in the pot? Doesn’t sound very appetizing.

  9. Forlath Grey 3 years ago

    . . .

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