[Henry, March 13, 2014.]
You don’t see novelty shops so much anymore. When I was a boy, “toys and novelties” were staples of my consumer life, found in what was called a variety store. You don’t see variety stores so much either.
The Oxford English Dictionary dates the word novelty to c. 1384: “Something new, not previously experienced, unusual, or unfamiliar; a novel thing.” The meaning of the word as I knew it (or sort of knew it) dates from 1840: “An often useless or trivial but decorative or amusing object, esp. one relying for its appeal on the newness of its design. Also (in later use): spec. a small inexpensive toy or trinket. Freq. in pl. ”
The novelties that first come to my mind: the sliding box that turned one coin into another, the folding gadget that made a dollar bill disappear, and Wriggley’s Gum. These days, the word novelties often refers to very different merchandise, for grown-ups only.
Here, from 2010, is a photograph of what was said to be New York City’s last novelty shop. Joke items, anyone?
Friday, March 21, 2014
By Michael Leddy at 8:43 AM