Etiquette & superstition: umbrellas


The last time I checked, my mother owned seven umbrellas. I wonder if having seven umbrellas is good luck or if it’s just a hoarding thing.

ETIQUETTE: There is very scant information in older etiquette books about the proper use of umbrellas, possibly because most of the tips may have once seemed obvious to anyone with common sense. “Why would I need remind anyone that it’s rude to poke someone in the eye with a sharp stick?” but it is 2013, and eh la…, don’t poke someone in the eye with your sharp stick. Don’t use a golf umbrella on busy sidewalks. Don’t shake your wet umbrella out on another person. There is one umbrella etiquette tip that I found to be helpful, however, and not completely obvious: if you are using an umbrella while walking on a sidewalk and approaching another person also using an umbrella, to avoid bumping umbrellas you merely need to determine which of you is taller. The taller person lifts one’s umbrella while passing, and the shorter person ducks theirs.

SUPERSTITION: If there is a person alive who has not heard that it is unlucky to open an umbrella indoors, I’ll eat my umbrella hat. It’s rarely indicated what sort of bad luck will occur – sometimes it’s death in the family, sometimes it’s merely a quarrel, but mostly it’s just “bad luck” – and other superstitions associated with umbrellas similarly have this vague outcome. If you drop your umbrella, don’t pick it up yourself… or you’ll have bad luck. Don’t give an umbrella as a gift… it’s bad luck. There are two specific outcomes I have come across associated with the act of dropping your umbrella, though: 1) you will soon meet a friend; 2) you will lose your mind. I have not been able to determine whether this is an “and” or an “or” situation.

Photo from my Flickr photostream

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