Etiquette & superstition: fire


A recent etiquette & superstition post of mine was slightly misquoted on another site, implying that I pulled a quote from a Vogue book of behavior recommending the imprisonment of cats on aquatic vessels. As I have no wish to attract the ire of Conde Nast Publications, allow me to point out that the cat-in-a-cupboard tip was the superstition portion of my post, and the etiquette tip was paraphrased from the Vogue book, not a direct quote. If I use a direct quote, I will always use quotation marks.

And lo, here is a direct quote for today’s etiquette tip, from Mark Twain‘s notes for a book on manners. As this tip is courtesy of the great Mark Twain, today’s entry may be historic for this site in that the etiquette tip is far superior to the accompanying bit of superstition. It’s merely an excerpt of his recommended protocol; for the full text, please visit The Gentlemen’s Page:

ETIQUETTE: “Form of Tender of Rescue from Strange Young Gentleman to Strange Young Lady at a Fire: ‘Although through the fiat of a cruel fate, I have been debarred the gracious privilege of your acquaintance, permit me, Miss [here insert name if known], the inestimable honor of offering you the aid of a true and loyal arm against the fiery doom which now o’ershadows you with its crimson wing’ [this form to be memorized, and practiced in private].

“Should she accept, the young gentleman would offer his arm–bowing, and observing ‘Permit me’–and so escort her to the fire escape and deposit her in it (being careful, if she have no clothes but her night dress, not to seem to notice the irregularity). No form of leave-taking is permissible, further than a formal bow, accompanied by a barely perceptible smile of deferential gratitude for the favor which the young lady has accorded–this smile to be completed at the moment the fire escape starts to slide down, then the features to be recomposed instantly.”

SUPERSTITION: Blue flames in a hearth fire indicate the presence of ghosts, specifically the corracha cagalt. These spirits portend bad weather approaching.

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  1. […] written about the etiquette & superstition surrounding a couple of fire topics before, but it’s a big topic. Today let’s talk about the good kind of fire. It’s kind of […]


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