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Picnic

From Academic Kids

For other uses, see Picnic (disambiguation).

In contemporary usage, picnic can be defined simply as a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors, ideally, taking place in a beautiful landscape.

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Formerly, picnic meant a potluck, an entertainment at which each person contributed some dish to a common table for all to share. The first usage of the word was traced to a 16th century French text, describing a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. A theory has it that the word picnic is based on the verb piquer which means 'pick' or 'peck' with the rhyming nique perhaps meaning trifle.

The 1692 edition of Origines de la Langue Françoise de Ménage, which mentions 'piquenique' as being of recent origin, marks the first appearance of the word in print. The word picnic first appeared in English texts in the mid-1700s, and may have entered the English language from this French word or from the German Picknick.

Contents

Language

  • While in British and American English one would say "driving in rush hour traffic is no picnic", an Australian or New Zealander would say "driving in rush hour traffic is a real picnic"; these reversed idioms both suggesting a difficult task.
  • In the late 1990s an e-mail hoax spread around the internet claiming that the word "picnic" was actually derived from racist term for a lynching. This claim had no basis in fact. See: Snopes.com urban legends reference page (http://www.snopes.com/language/offense/picnic.htm)
  • In established parks, a picnic area generally includes picnic tables and possibly other items related to eating outdoors, such as built-in barbecue grills, water faucets, garbage containers, and restrooms.

Law

  • Picnicking is sometimes not allowed in amusement parks, etc, because it could damage the turnover of restaurants, cafeterias and food kiosks in the park.
  • "Picnicking" in the wider sense of eating brought-along food, may or may not be allowed in public transport.

Related historical events

After the French Revolution in 1789, royal parks became open to the public for the first time. Picnicking in the parks became a popular activity amongst the newly enfranchised citizens.

Early in the 19th century, a fashionable group of Londoners formed the 'Picnic Society'. Members met in the Pantheon on Oxford Street. Each member was expected to provide a share of the entertainment and of the refreshments with no one particular host. Interest in the society waned in the 1850s as the founders died.

The image of picnics as a peaceful social activity can be utilised for political protest too. In this context, a picnic functions as a temporary occupation of significant public territory. A famous example of this is the Paneuropean Picnic held on both sides of the Hungarian / Austrian border on the August 19, 1989 as part of the struggle towards German reunification.

In the year 2000, a 600-mile-long picnic took place from coast to coast in France to celebrate the first Bastille Day of the new Millennium. In the United States, likewise, the 4th of July celebration of American independence is a popular day for a picnic.

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Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (Manet, 1862)

Picnics in the fine arts

Perhaps the most famous depiction of a picnic is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, painted by Edouard Manet in 1862.

In literature

In film

  • The film Picnic was a multiple Oscar winner from 1955.
  • With Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), Peter Weir constructs a film of haunting mystery. Three girls and one of their teachers on a school outing mysteriously disappear. The only one that is later found remembers almost nothing.
  • Baji on the Beach, Gurinder Chada (1993). The German version of the film is titled Picknick on the Beach. Nine Indian women of various ages flee away from their everyday life into a joint excursion to the English resort town of Blackpool. A rather unharmonious journey because conflicts between generations raise emotions to a fever pitch.

In music

  • In 1906 the American composer J. K. Bratton wrote a musical piece originally titled "The Teddy Bear Two Step". It became popular in an 1908 instrumental version renamed "Teddy Bears Picnic", performed by the Arthur Pryor Band. The song regained prominence in 1932 when the Irish lyricist Jimmy Kennedy added words and it was recorded by the then popular Henry Hall (and his BBC Dance Orchestra) featuring Val Rosing (Gilbert Russell) as lead vocalist, which went on to sell a million copies. Teddy Bear Picnic resurfaced again in the late 1940s and early 1950s when it was used as the theme song for the Big John and Sparky radio program, a children's show presented on Saturday mornings. This perennial favorite has appeared on many children's recordings ever since. lyrics and audio from the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/tweenies/songtime/songs/t/teddybearspicnic.shtml)
  • "Stone Soul Picnic", by Laura Nyro (released in 1968) It was a major hit for the group Fifth Dimension. cover version by Swing Out Sister (http://www.swingoutsister.com/albums/lyrics/shapes_and_patterns_lyrics.html)

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