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