Toyshop of Europe

(The). So Burke called Birmingham. Here “toy” does not refer to playthings for children, but small articles made of steel. “Light toys” in Birmingham mean mounts, small steel rings, sword hilts, and so on; while “heavy steel toys” mean champagne-nippers, sugar-cutters, nut-crackers, and all similar articles.

A whim or fancy is a toy. Halliwell quotes (MS. Harl. 4888), “For these causes ... she ran at random ... as the toy took her.”

It also means an anecdote or trifling story. Hence Latimer (1550) says, “And here I will tell you a merry toy.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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