Etiquette & superstition: flannel

Flannel is one of those words that starts looking funny the more you look at it. Flannel. Shouldn’t flannel be a dessert? A soft dessert? I can’t find any evidence that there is such a flannel dessert. The word “flannel” is derived from the Welsh word “gwlanen,” which I guess is also funny looking, but that doesn’t sound like a very good dessert at all to me.

ETIQUETTE: Flannel used to be one of those confusing fabrics where it seemed like it would be appropriate for winter wear just like flannel sheets and nightgowns, but it was actually used more often for tennis outfits and white suits that men would wear to garden parties. Suddenly around the mid-20th century or so, however, flannel stopped being primarily identified as a sporty fabric for summer gadabouts and started aligning its character with the conformist businessman. Geoffrey Beene even named a men’s fragrance Grey Flannel.

Regardless of this current identity, flannel is an excellent fabric that keeps one warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and if you don’t take your fashion cues from the Urban Dictionary, you should consider wearing it in seasonal-appropriate colors and weight whenever you like. Think of the wondrous thing that is summer-weight wool.

SUPERSTITION: If you want to cure gout, smear the afflicted foot with treacle and wrap it in flannel. Hard breasts can be remedied by applying mashed turnips mixed with rose oil to the breasts and keeping the area warm with a flannel wrap. If you wish to attract love, put a lock of your hair, a heart-shaped piece of dried lemon peel, and a piece of dried ginseng root into a pink or red flannel bag. Dedicate the bag to your purpose and wear it from a gold chain around your neck.

Photo of Stinging Flannel Moth Caterpillar by Andreas Kay on Flickr

Slapping the pigskin

It always confuses me when anthropomorphized animals have other animals as pets or livestock. Why does Richard Scarry’s Kathy Bear have to feed the pigs? If she put a bowtie on her pigs, could they feed themselves? What would happen to Flip the Frog’s football game here if a similar bowtie adornment occurred?

Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A retraction

Polly Bergen died over the weekend, and this gave me a little more impetus to scour through my library to try to find my copy of Polly Bergen’s Book of Beauty, Fashion and Charm. Lo and behold, I did indeed find it, and while I was looking for a tidbit in the book to perhaps help with a Polly Bergen tribute post, I discovered that 1) there was very little in the book about charm, other than the ersatz “charm” I was subjected to in charm school (posture, makeup, walking and talking), and 2) in an earlier Polly Bergen post here on Fancy Notions I completely mischaracterized her remedy for sunburn. I must make amends.

Dear readers, Polly Bergen did not recommend applying “the thickest globs of milk of magnesia to your skin” to relieve your sunburn and avoid peeling. That is just absurd. She recommended that for shrinking one’s pores. For sunburn, Polly’s solution was to “Mash a few tomatoes into about a cup of buttermilk and spread it on your damaged skin like a paste.” There you have it.

My apologies, Polly and readers, for the error. My additional thanks to Polly for providing the world with this image in her chapter on fashion:

Invisible ladies and invisible hovering poops. Or maybe that’s just an invisible party hat. The guy does look a few sheets to the wind.

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 5:34 pm  Comments (2)  
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Make it better yourself

I know not every kid who has to deal with a bully is this resourceful, but this girl’s solution seems a lot more effective than an “it gets better” mantra. Also, I think I’ve found my Halloween costume.

We got some work to do now

Wow. First we lose Shaggy (literally, for a time) and now Skooby Doo is missing. I think there may be a connection.

Who do you think is behind this?


Published in: on September 17, 2014 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Monday, September 15th

Math is a lot easier these days. In the past when you wanted to say “2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2,” instead of saying “2 to the eighth power,” you had to say, “2

Glitter Text

zenzizenzizenzic.” Okay, maybe math isn’t any easier these days.

Published in: on September 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Curse of the condemned cat

Okay, now I see that it’s kind of just a Rorschach blot on this cat’s nose,

but when I looked at this earlier it really seemed like the silhouette of a mouse. And that got me thinking, “Wow, that’s weird. A mouse silhouette on his nose. I wonder if he killed a mouse and the mouse was some kind of magic devil mouse who gave the cat a ‘Whomever shall harm me will wear my image for eternity’ mouse curse sort of thing. And the cat’s name is Thirteen. Good lord, you’re just asking for it by giving a cat the name Thirteen. That’s like giving a dog the name Lucky and not expecting it to be run over by a truck. This cat is so doomed. He probably was just looking for some cat action in the middle of the night and boom – dark alley surrounded by angry mice with their red beady little eyes  set on revenge for their fallen devil mouse leader or whatever. This cat is not coming back.”

And then I looked at the picture again when I uploaded it to my computer, and that mark didn’t look very much like a mouse any more.

Careless whispers

Today’s cartoon is entitled “The Gorilla Mystery.” The only mystery for me was how there could be a gorilla barely taller than a mouse. Well, that and the mystery of Mickey’s unusual whispering voice. I guess this was a pretty mysterious cartoon after all.

Published in: on September 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Word of the day for Thursday, September 4th

I don’t usually feature athletes on Fancy Notions, and I don’t usually pick a proper name for the Word of the Day, but this athlete is special so I’m going to break some rules. Today we celebrate

Glitter Text

Potoooooooo! Otherwise known as Pot-8-os, this guy was considered the best racehorse of his time in the late 18th century. The story goes that the his owner told a stable boy to write the horse’s name on a stall door and the kid didn’t know how to spell Potatoes. I for one am very proud of that kid; he could have just chickened out and written Spuds, and then where would we be? We’d be in a world without Potoooooooo, that’s where we’d be.

Published in: on September 4, 2014 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Etiquette & superstition: a multitude of spoons

This four foot long spoon attached to a tree outside this house in our neighborhood is puzzling to me. True, I own a four foot long spoon, but I keep it in the kitchen. Maybe this house is the secret hideout of The Tick.

ETIQUETTE: Everybody who complains about utensil etiquette usually complains about the forks. “The forks! There are so many! It’s so hard with the forks!” I wonder about these everybodies sometimes. It’s as if they just sit there staring at the left-hand side of their place settings and never bother to notice the abundance of spoons on the right-hand side, and even above the plate. These everybodies are going to have heart attacks with the spoons if they’re already having trouble with forks.

If you go into the early to mid-20th century etiquette books you are going to see a lot of dissension about spoons. As an example, ’50s edition Emily Post will tell you that tablespoons are a little arrogant to have around the house, but she makes no mention of soup spoons or what one is supposed to eat soup with. Amy Vanderbilt from that era has no problem with tablespoons but really only likes to talk about dessert spoons, unless she is upset about teaspoons showing up where the soup spoon should be (though she makes little mention of the soup spoon itself, relegating it to a few diagrams). The ever-thorough Etiquette Scholar does a very nice job of outlining the 14 types of spoons one may commonly find at a table, though he does not mention the scalloped sugar spoon.

Let’s just make this simple. If you’re at a formal dinner, your soup spoon is going to be to the right of your knife and your dessert spoon is either going to be above your plate or will be provided when dessert is served. They also should be helpful with providing your teaspoon with your tea saucer and/or your coffee spoon with your demitasse service. If anybody looks at you with an “Oh! The Wrong Spoon!” face, it is their fault for providing you with the wrong spoon at the wrong time. Give them a withering “I am doing the best that I can with what I have been provided” face in response and we’re done with that.

SUPERSTITION: Two spoons inadvertently placed in a single cup or saucer signal either an impending wedding, a second wedding, or twins. Spooning gravy backhanded will lead to arguments within the house.


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