9 Topics I’m Absolutely Fascinated By

9 Topics I'm Absolutely Fascinated By by Catherine Summers AKA Not Dressed As Lamb

The other day I learned the origin of a phrase and it was SO interesting… I realised that phraseology (woo, get me!) was a topic that I’m absolutely fascinated by.

Whether that makes me a complete nerd I don’t know (and don’t particularly care!), but it did make me think about all the topics that fascinate me.

Now, this is different to the things in life that I’m really crazy about – Leonardo DiCaprio, giraffes and marzipan chocolate, for example. They’re not topics, they’re just things. (Not that I want to refer to Harry Styles as a “thing”… that magnificent specimen of a human being is, in every way imaginable, so much more than that.)

Let’s, er, =ahem= stop thinking about Harry Styles for a minute and get back onto the topic of…

Topics. Yes, the topic of topics, and all the ones I reeeeeally like.

[Reading time: 7 mins]

I’ve had a good think and written down all the topics that I always want to know more about, investigate more, or constantly get to grips with. I like the fact that I like stuff. I like the fact that I never want to stop learning. I truly believe it’s good for the soul. I hope you like this list (some may surprise you more than others, eep!) and find my reasons for liking them… fascinating?! Or at the very least, interesting. And I hope it gets you thinking about your own topics that fascinate you.

So, without further ado…

 

Here are 9 topics I’m absolutely fascinated by…

1. Regional accents

Since I worked out I could do a very good Australian accent when I was young (I took to copying my elder-by-14-years sister who’d moved to Australia after college and instantly picked up an Aussie twang), I’ve become more and more fascinated by people’s accents.

Living in the UK means that you’re bombarded with accents from every corner of the country. It’s not an exaggeration to say you can travel 30 miles to another area or city and be met by a totally different accent. I love trying to work out exactly where someone is from. Not just “Scottish”, “Westcountry” or “Midlands”, but what specific town or city in those areas. I was very proud of myself when I listened to an actress with a not-quite-northern accent on TV and guessed that she was from Nottingham (I’m from the South East so not my part of the world at all): I looked her up on IMDb and yes, she was born in Nottingham. GET INNNNNN.

And I like guessing what countries people are from too, even more so when they’ve maybe grown up in one country and then moved to another so have a strange composite accent. The other day I heard the weirdest mashed-up accent on TV, and I thought he was probably Spanish but had lived in Northern Ireland for maybe most of his adult life – the Derry in him was strong. A Northern Irish Spaniard, it was a totally smooshed-together accent but I loved the craziness of it.

 

 

9 Topics I'm Absolutely Fascinated By (Colour Palettes) by Catherine Summers AKA Not Dressed As Lamb

2. Colour palettes

This is a simple one, but it’s just that: I like colour(s). An uncomplicated fascination, I just love little swatches of different colours grouped together. I especially love the ones you see a lot on Pinterest of those plucked from a beautiful image, like one of nature or wildlife (like the one I’ve created from my own image in this post, above). I have a whole board dedicated to just colour palettes and my favourites are soft, desaturated warm tones. Uhhhhh I’m going all shivery [nice shivery] just thinking about them ๐Ÿ˜€

 

3. Kings and Queens of England/United Kingdom

I have no idea why, but the history of the royal family of the United Kingdom has always interested me. Which Henry came before which Edward or George; the right royal clusterf**k that occurred after Elizabeth I died; how Victoria came to the throne; all of that. I even bought an A3 poster that’s stuck on the inside of a kitchen cupboard showing all the kings and queens, starting with Egbert (the first Saxon king recognised as “king of all the English” in 827 AD) and ending with Elizabeth II (obviously I got it before Charles became king).

It’s the sort of subject that seems almost inexhaustive. Did you know that “Bloody Mary” is not Mary, Queen of Scots – people often mix them up, myself included. (To be fair, every other baby girl was named Mary in those days.) “Bloody Mary” was Mary I of England, daughter of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon. She was known as such because she was Catholic and therefore had many Protestants executed including Lady Jane Grey, the 16-year-old “Nine Days’ Queen”. Mary, Queen of Scots was Henry VIII’s grandniece and granddaughter of James IV of Scotland (not England!), who’d married Henry VIII’s youngest sister Margaret Tudor. Not his other sister, Mary Tudor, who was also grandmother of Lady Jane Grey. So Elizabeth I had a half-sister, an aunt and a first cousin once removed called Mary. I told you they were all called Mary, and I told you I loved this stuff.

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It all still confuses the hell out of me but the complicated nature of royal succession throughout history is what makes it so interesting.

Extra tidbit: one of my all-time favourite paintings to go and see IRL is in the National Gallery: The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche. The subject matter is obviously horrific but it’s so beautifully painted, it’s also haunting… the light is something to behold.

 

4. World’s greatest mysteries

Oh LORD do I love a good mystery. I have a chicken-and-an-egg scenario when it comes to a “World’s Greatest Mysteries” book my parents got me when I was young and my actual fascination with unsolved mysteries from history (WHY has a TV show with that name never been made? =dibs=). Did the book spark my fascination, or did they get me the book as I was so interested in that topic already? Who knows (it’s a mystery, hah-HAH). Straight off the top of my head I can think of Agatha Christie going missing, the Mary Celeste, whatever happened to Eva Peron’s body, the lost city of Atlantis, who was Jack the Ripper, the Loch Ness monster, the death of Elisa Lam, any number of ghost stories… the list goes on and on. We recently watched the Netflix MH370: The Plane That Disappeared documentary and oh wow that was good.

Please note I am not a conspiracy theorist(!) – that’s something completely different. I just like learning more about mysterious cases that have never been solved.

Extra tidbit: That first book I mentioned I had was dated 1984 so I’ve had it since I was about 12, and I still have it now. When I lived in London I got a new flatmate and she saw the book on my bookshelf… turns out it was written by her dad who was a well-known author of these types of books. I actually had two books written by him on my shelves. Spooky coincidence.

 

5. Serial killers, disasters and true crime

Er… yeahhhh. This is a bit of a weird one to admit to, though I did already admit to it in my Fantasy Jobs I Would Be Really, Really Good At post [the relevant job was being a police detective]. So I’m going for the gently, gently approach when admitting to this stuff. I consider myself a very stable, not-at-all-unhinged kind of person (OMG now I’m sounding like I’m trying to cover something up so I’ll shut up) – anyway! I think it has something to do with the era I grew up in. The 1970s-80s was a time when serial killings and horrific disasters seemed to dominate the news, and the aforementioned books that my parents got me also included accounts of events like the sinking of the Titanic and the Hindenburg disaster.

I’m blaming my fascination with the macabre on them. I think I need to move on…!

 

Space - I f------ love outer space, all those planets and stars and s---

6. Planets and stars

Ever seen the meme “I f*****g love outer space, all those planets and stars and sh*t”? – well, that’s me in a nutshell. I have a husband who is even MORE into “all that sh*t” than me, but I get to leach off his knowledge (which seems to know no bounds) and constantly ask him question after question about space. Some of my favourite TV programmes are the ones about the universe and the planets with Professor Brian Cox doing his [cue a Manc accent] “Oooh, isn’t that loov-ley” thing whilst looking up wistfully at the night sky. And when it gets into the really serious stuff and he talks about the scale of the universe, I find it a complete headf**k… but secretly, I love it.

One of the greatest things I’ve ever seen with my own eyes is Saturn through a powerful telescope. We bought a huge mo-fo of a telescope about 10 years ago (one of the heavy-duty ones that’s a short, fat barrel on a tripod, not a long pointy one) and seeing Saturn for the first time – with all its rings as clear as day (hah, the irony) – was INCREDIBLE. I’d say “seeing it in real time” but you’re not actually seeing it in real time, are you? It’s 1.3569 billion km away so, therefore, it takes 1 hour 15 minutes for the light to reach our eyes so, therefore, you’re seeing it in the past by a little bit and so, therefore, you are actually time travelling and…

Told you – headf***k.

 

7. Countries, counties and states

Although I’m a bit rusty now, a few years back I learned all 50 US states in alphabetical order. It serves me well when watching Pointless on TV. I also love studying maps and globes, seeing what’s near where and what countries I’ve never heard of before and can try to remember. The many counties of Great Britain have eluded me so far, but that’s on my list of things I want to learn.

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If anyone knows of a large-scale board game or poster that involves a map with borders but without names, I want to know about it so I can learn which is which and where they all are (some sort of magnetic names to put on the board would be EVEN better). I love the idea of trying to learn which US state is which after having learned the entire list off-pat. I also want the same for countries of the world and the counties of GB. I want to know it all, and be a smart-arse about it too.

 

8. Origins of phrases (phraseology) and of words (etymology)

Oh now this is really fascinating. I discovered a TikTok account that is dedicated purely to explaining how (English language) phrases came to be – it’s called phraseology – and I love it. I’m so interested in specific parts of history (see kings and queens and disasters, above) and especially the everyday phrases that we say without even thinking. “It’s brass monkeys outside” is one of my favourites:

The expression “It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” comes from the practice of putting iron cannon balls on a dimpled brass plate on the deck of a warship. When very cold the brass contracted sufficiently to cause the iron balls to fall out. Source

There are so many expressions that we use in everyday language that it would take an eternity to actually learn them all, so many are in such common use that we just never think twice about what we’re saying. “Butter someone up”. “Cat got your tongue”. “Giving someone the cold shoulder”. “To bite the bullet”. And on, and on. (If you now need to know the origins of any of those you can go to expressions with crazy origins here.)

And then there are the origins of individual words (etymology, a great word in itself). I took French, German and Latin at school (that sounds far more impressive than it actually is, they were compulsory. I did “okay” in German and Latin and a little bit more than okay in French. Believe me, this is not false modesty) and having a grasp of the basics – especially Latin – actually set me in good stead for understanding the English language better. I don’t consider myself a highly intelligent person, just a person of slightly above-average intelligence (and most of that was due to going to a very good school, not due to anything particularly special about me).

My limited knowledge of the old languages that provided the origins of most of the English language means I’m very good at making educated guesses. I can usually work out roughly what things mean when I’ve never heard of them before. And I love doing it.

 

Ilfracombe beach, late 19th century and present day (2023) by Catherine Summers

9. Changing landscapes and “then and nows”

Ermahgerd I just LOVE those “then and now” shots taken in places that compare a scene from years ago with the present day. I went to Ilfracombe in North Devon (again!) last month and while I was there I took a shot from the same spot that a photo was taken from in the 1890s. It’s from halfway up Capstone Hill looking down onto the beach and the promenade, and I made sure I got the EXACT same position by lining up rooftops, rocks, etc. to each other. I love zooming in on all the buildings and seeing what still exists and what’s changed. Even the trees and the rocks on the beach look the same but have respectively grown or worn away a bit (shame the tide wasn’t exactly the same when I went but it was close).

I could stare at these “then and nows” for hours and hours and never get fed up of looking at them. They are fascinating. Like all the topics I’ve listed here…!

 

Your turn – what topics fascinate YOU? Any of them the same as mine? Share with me in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Catherine signature

 

P.S. Have you read my latest Substack post? My Obsession With Conker Collecting Is Out of Control

Linking up to… Monday: Stylish Monday (second Monday of the month), Inspire Me MondayMy Glittery Heart, On Mondays We Link Up || Tuesday: Style With a Smile, Trend Spin/Walking in Memphis in High Heels, Turning Heads Tuesday, Confident Twosday, Happy Now Blog Link Up || Wednesday: WowOnWednesday || Thursday: Chic & Stylish, Ageless Style Linkup (third Thursday of the month), || Friday: Neverending Style, Fancy Friday, On the Edge

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20 Comments

  1. Nancy Machen
    19 October 2023 / 3:11 pm

    Genetic genealogy and all of the shows like Finding Your Roots and Who Do You Think You Are. I figured out who my husband’s adopted dad’s parent’s were by working with his Paternal matches on Ancestry.com. It took 18 months but I learned so much about genetic genealogy along the way. In the midst of this DNA testing adventure, I found out that my dad was not my biodad. Kind of a shock at 66. Long story, but always pay attention to your family stories, there is usually at least a grain of truth in there.

    • Catherine
      Author
      19 October 2023 / 11:28 pm

      Oh yes I’m fascinated by this too, Nancy!! I’v also started my family tree on one of those genealogy sites and love the Who Do You Think You Are shows, I also wish they could do my family tree!!

      I did my DNA testing recently, it’s a bit of a strange one as on one hand I find it fascinating, but then on the other hand I can understand that there’s always the potential to open up a can of worms or two, as it seems it did for you. My dad found out in later life that his parents weren’t married despite them always giving the impression that they were: a right old scandal when he was born in 1929! Seems his dad (my grandfather) was still married to someone else when he and my grandmother (my dad’s mum) “ran away” together, probably because he was still married and there was a 25-year-ish age gap between them. Thankfully my dad wasn’t hurt, just curious why his mum never told him…!

  2. 19 October 2023 / 5:50 am

    Then and Nows, Serial Killers, etc , Planets and Stars etc. I’m also fascinated by people. Everyone has a story…… And Catherine, am so glad that you are “back”. You are truly The Greatest Blogger. Ever. xxxx

    • Catherine
      Author
      19 October 2023 / 11:23 pm

      Oh my goodness Ratnamurti – talk about making my day?!! Thank you sooooo much my lovely… that’s high praise and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you said!

      Anywayyyyy… sounds like you and I have similar obsessions. And yes I’m fascinated by people too – I also love people-watching at places like airports and train stations. I could sit for hours watching people go by! xx

  3. Ruth Slavid
    17 October 2023 / 3:49 pm

    Did you know that that theatre on the seafront at Ilfracombe, when first built, was known as ‘Madonna’s bra’?

    • Catherine
      Author
      17 October 2023 / 7:57 pm

      No I didnโ€™t know that, Ruthโ€ฆ but it absolutely makes sense, LOL!!

  4. 15 October 2023 / 8:19 am

    Oh I totally relate with serial killers, horror and all things macabre. But I do love British accents. I’m Dutch, but I dream of living in the UK, Sussex to be more specific. We are going to Rye 3 times a year and we have met people in the pub which we talk too and one even asked if I was from the area because I sounded that way. Gosh, I was so proud! But after seen Happy Valley, and totally fell for that series, I love that accent a lot too!

    • Catherine
      Author
      16 October 2023 / 11:37 pm

      I’m so glad someone is with me on the serial killer thing, Nancy… it always worries me to admit to that!!

      Having lived in Devon for 20 years now and, I don’t think, picking up ANY trace of a Devon accent (my husband is a born and bred Londoner and hasn’t lost a trace of his dulcet London tones), we often joke when we have conversations with other people who live here but definitely aren’t from the Westcountry… we always say (in a think Devonian accent, think farmers), “You’re not from round these parrrts…!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I love how it makes the UK and Ireland so damn interesting for such a relatively tiny country x

  5. michelle
    14 October 2023 / 5:10 pm

    Were it not for the Styles thing… we might be the same person. lol (I’m going to have to disagree with true crime as well BUT I did consider a career in prosecution law… so maybe not that far off.)

    Once, in a time far far away, before the internet, out of curiosity and for the sheer fun of it, my mother and I did an exhaustive search of all the monarchs and successions with our family encyclopedia set. It took us a long time. A library would have been easier but we made good use of all 28 volumes of Britanicas. I am not interested in the modern royal family, but I AM obsessed with their ancestors!

    Thanks for the read. It is always delightful to learn of like-minded people.

    • Catherine
      Author
      16 October 2023 / 11:40 pm

      I think true crime has become a super-popular subject Michelle due to there being so many documentaries on Netflix about them, but for me it’s been a lifelong fascination as I mentioned… I always wonder what my mother thought about it?!!

      It’s the ancestors of the British royal family for me too – it was way more complicated back then with such a high mortality rate and heads getting chopped off left right and centre, so the line of succession was all over the place. It’s much more simple now and not so interesting, is it??

      Thank you for the lovely comment, oh like-minded one! x

  6. Maria S
    14 October 2023 / 3:09 pm

    Thanks for this post, Catherine. Re the countries of the world topic, you might like a couple of websites which are like Wordle but with countries. One is https://worldle.teuteuf.fr/ and the other is https://globle-game.com/game. Each one has one country per day to guess. I came across them during โ€œlockdownโ€ and have learnt so much, especially the parts of the world that have changed since I was at school!

    • Catherine
      Author
      16 October 2023 / 11:43 pm

      Thank you Maria – I have to admit I have no idea what Wordle is, lol (I should have added that to my” I Have No Idea What These 10 Modern Things Are” post!!) – but I’ll look them up! I’m assuming it meets my needs in terms of the “pin the tail on the donkey” game I want for countries and states, etc., if so they’ll be brilliant! TY x

  7. Amy Rothenfeld
    14 October 2023 / 1:11 pm

    We could be friends. Almost all on your list gets me hyped up. I love trivia and can remember little things like that. We could do great on Jeopardy or playing trivial pursuit (remember that game). I also love finding out stuff about films. I go to IMBd when watching a movie or before going to see it at a theater.
    Also can you link the TikTok for phraseology?

    • Catherine
      Author
      16 October 2023 / 11:50 pm

      Oh I think we have even more “loves” in common now you’ve mentioned those other things, Amy! I bought a Trivial Pursuit questions box from a charity shop recently (just the questions) simply so my husband and I could just test each other’s general knowledge… only trouble is, it’s dated 1986 so we have to put our 1980s hats on and remember stuff about Czechoslovakia, the USSR, Dallas and Dynasty LOL ๐Ÿ˜€

      AND I love looking up the trivia for a movie on IMDb straight after I’ve watched it – in fact I should have added that to this list!!

      Apologies about the link to the TikTok account, I intended to add it in but forgot to go back and add it… here it is: https://www.tiktok.com/@homeofallthingsfacts (it does facts as well but the phraseology ones are really, really brilliant) xx

  8. Lynn Jones
    14 October 2023 / 12:09 pm

    Oh, absolutely love accents and words. Do you have a trigger word or phrase to help to switch to the accent? How many ‘A’s in mars bar down south versus the Midlands and the North? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Have you looked at any of Susie Dent’s posts or books? Thunderplumps for huge raindrops that soak you, kempt as in tidy, etc. I think she posted about discombobulation and mentioned an airport that had a ‘recombobulation lounge’ for weary travellers. TBH, I think I could do with one of those at home…. A recombob zone, not visitors ๐Ÿ™‚

    Top spot on the Nottingham accent. I love the different ways we talk and the language we use. For Nottingham folks (nott num), there’s a few giveaways to us: duck (“dook”), bus (“buh-ss” not “bas” like gas), and winduz (not “win doe”). Have you looked at the old BBC accent map? Lots of interviews with people across the country and of different ages too. Some lost language too, such as polari, and new terms we get from our multicultural society.

    I find the origin of place names fascinating too. The ‘by’ and ‘ton’ suffixes to denote the settlement history. I think the University of Nottingham have a map where you can look up English places and understand the language behind the name. Ticks the language, regional, and “before’ boxes.

    I’m a bit nerdy on psychology and behaviour things. I guess it’s a mix of curiosity and trying to find why certain folk do the things they do. Also why we have certain cultural leanings towards some things, but taboos towards others.

    As to Kings & Queens: have you listened to the Horrible Histories’ Kings & Queens song? Fantastic stuff…. which leads me into a secret love of a good comedy word play and music. The joys of word play, getting a reference, the performance, and all that.

    Oh, going back to Horrible Histories, there’s a few utterly fabulous sketches where they reference various Victorian slang. “Some doddy gave me a tap on the coconut and stole me spangle” ๐Ÿ˜€ That and “We’re gonna need a rook and some Davies powder. Watch out for the crushers!” Great to see the cast continuing their brilliance in Ghosts (BBC).

    • Catherine
      Author
      17 October 2023 / 12:00 am

      Yes I have a few phrases to get into the accent EXACTLY like you said, Lyn!! Scouse is: “I’ll have some chicken and a can of coke”, Geordie is “We’re going to Winter Wonderland!” and Devon is “I gave her the cold shoulder” (pronounced “code shoder”), LOL!

      I definitely need to look at getting a Susie Dent book or two… I’ve never thought about it, but yeah I think I’d love her books – I love the old rude words bit she does on Cats Does Countdown ๐Ÿ˜‰

      And what is polari? I’ve never heard of that! (will Google.) And from what you’ve said, you’re from Nottingham…?! Apologies if you’ve told me that before, but yeah I was super proud of that identification.

      Yes I look up place name origins too. That’s the sort of history I love. I have heard the Horrible Histories song about the Kings and Queens before, must have another listen and see if I can memorise it!

      Another massive Ghosts fan over here ๐Ÿ˜€ #RaisesHand

      (Thanks for the brilliant comment! Love knowing what everyone else likes!)

  9. Tresi Hall
    14 October 2023 / 10:52 am

    Oh yes to many of your fascinations I love origins of words and phrases; it seems to me that the old time sailors must have had a fine turn of phrase ( think three sheets to the wind,taking the kings shilling,etc)
    Serial killers,of course. I’m first in the queue for the latest Jack the Ripper theory and where places are. There is (or used to be) a company called jigmap. They made jigsaw puzzles of all the continents with pictorial prompts,so really easy to remember where places were,but their best was a wooden jigsaw of England with county – shaped pieces – absolute heaven,until Rutland went missing!

    • Catherine
      Author
      17 October 2023 / 12:09 am

      Oooh I reckon there must be LOADS of phrases that originated from sailors and the seafaring community, Tresi!

      Speaking of Jack the Ripper: a few years ago my husband and I did a Jack the Ripper tour in London, with a guide showing us round all the places he’d killed and telling us what happened in each place. It was really entertaining (the guide was an ex-actor and absolutely BRILLIANT) – at one point he was talking about one of the victims and asked for a volunteer female in the group to step forward so he could “demonstrate” something or other about the murder… of course he picked me. He proceeded to say,

      “And this is where Catherine Eddowes was murdered: what’s your name my dear?”

      Me, with a pained look on my face: “Catherine…”

      He said it was the first time he’d picked someone out with the same name ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Lesley Russell
    14 October 2023 / 9:33 am

    I may not share your enthusiasm for Harry Styles-sorry Harry-but mysteries and histories oh yes! This winter I am going to read study and learn purely for my own pleasure. English history, what makes a psychopath and the night sky for starters.

    • Catherine
      Author
      17 October 2023 / 12:11 am

      I think Harry will be okay, Lesley, LOL! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Mysteries and histories, isn’t that brilliant?? And I think that’s amazing to learn just for your own pleasure. I have to admit I do the same, but I have a mind like a sieve and forget stuff easily so I have to learn it all over again… double the fun!!

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