The author writes about this book --- in the "Preface" --- as follows: "My aim in this work has been to comprise within the compass of a single volume a mass of curious, out-of-the-way information acquired during years of labour and research from sources not easily accessible to general readers. have further attempted to render the book interesting, as well as useful, by making it familiar in style rather than formal, and by keeping it free, as far as possible, from technicalities, dry details, and scientific terms."
The book contains 4000 articles on --- as the title indicates --- words, facts, and phrases.For a few examples, see below:
"Days of the week. The English names of the seven days of the week are derived from those of pagan deities, or natural objects of worship to which each day was dedicated; thus: Sunday, Sun's day. Monday, Moon's day. Tuesday, from Tuisto or Tuesco, a Saxon god. Wednesday, Woden's day, from Odin or Woden. also a Saxon idol. Thursday, Thor's day. Thor was worshipped by all the northern European nations. Friday, Friga's day, from Friga, the Scandinavian Venus. Saturday, Saterne's day."
"Forks were introduced into England in the sixteenth century. The custom of using them was brought from Italy. In the `Travels of Thomas Coryate, of Odcombe near Yeovil,' 1611, he says, ' The Italians, and also most strangers that are commorant in Italie, doe alwaies at the meales use a little forke when they cut their meate." And, he continues, "So great was the prejudice against their use, even amongst educated people, that a bold divine of those days preached a sermon against the practice of using them, saying 'it was an insult to the
Almighty not to touch one's meat with one's fingers.'"