Etiquette & superstition: spitting

When Benny and I were on vacation a few weeks ago, we stopped in to a motel that we weren’t sure was of the highest caliber. I stayed in the car while Benny went to check out the room, and as I looked up to the second floor balcony, some motel guest spat down onto the driveway. I grimaced. The spitter noticed and stared at me a long while. Then he went inside. We wound up staying in the room directly below his. Nothing bad happened to us that night.

ETIQUETTE: Spitting in public is no longer considered an acceptable practice anywhere in the world. Seriously. It’s not. Read the signs. Everyone everywhere is telling you not to spit in public. You can spit in public if you are tasting wine, if you have inadvertently swallowed a bug, or if you are a camel. Otherwise, keep your fluids to yourself until you can find some privacy. At the very least, spit into a tissue or handkerchief.

“But what about Greek weddings?” you may be saying. “They spit at Greek weddings.” No, they don’t. Not really. They go ftoo ftoo ftoo. Don’t actually spit at the bride. For pete’s sake.

SUPERSTITION: Spit from a fasting person will cure boils, blindness,birthmarks and ringworm. Spit from an angry dog or a weasel is poisonous, and spit from a person who has been tickled to death may be lethal. A person’s spit contains a portion of his soul, so you may or may not want to spread that stuff around, but spitting will ward off the evil eye, and will even get rid of the Devil if you spit right between his horns. Practice your aim, friends.

Photo by darwin Bell on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: eclipses, part two


It’s been a while since we talked about eclipses here, and I know I didn’t cover everything then. If I don’t get everything in this time, maybe I’ll try again in 2024.

ETIQUETTE: There are two things that most people are going to want to experience during a solar eclipse – darkness and an unimpeded view of the sky. So, if you are going to be around other people and happen to be in the path of totality,

During the total eclipse phase (a maximum of 2:40 at its area of longest duration this time around), be particularly careful about the following:

  • don’t take flash photos
  • don’t take selfies with your damn screen all lit up
  • don’t text (seriously, if you can’t keep yourself from texting for less than three minutes, I don’t even know what to tell you)

SUPERSTITION: Remember last time when we warned you about how you had to make a lot of racket to scare the giant sky dragon and make him barf up the sun? Turns out that’s not true. During an eclipse, what actually happens is this demon who got his head chopped off after the sun and moon ratted him out to Vishnu for stealing some immortality juice goes and eats the sun, but it’s okay because he’s only a head, so after he swallows the sun it just falls out of his neck hole and everything’s fine after a few minutes.

So relax and don’t worry about the eclipse, unless you’re a pregnant lady who wants to give birth to a healthy child. Aside from the cleft palate danger I mentioned in the previous post, a pregnant woman who goes out into the eclipse just might turn her unborn child into a mouse fetus.

Photo (cropped) of Sun Days Motel sign by Sam Howzit via Flickr

 

Etiquette & superstition: letters to pests

Pest: an annoying or troublesome person, animal, or thing; nuisance. Being a pest does not require intention or desire to be a pest. You may be a pest and not even know it. Wouldn’t you rather someone told you?

ETIQUETTE: If you are in a work situation or living environment and you do not know who is stealing everyone’s lunch or leaving junk mail on the lobby floor, it is perfectly fine to post a directly-worded but calm note at the area of offense and not sign your name to it. It’s more of a sign than a note in this case. If you know who the offender is, however, it’s a completely different matter.

If you don’t feel comfortable confronting the offender and their offense is something that is actually interfering with your ability to work or to live comfortably, direct communication is preferred but if you must, find an intermediary. A boss is the appropriate person to talk to if a co-worker’s habits are harassing, unprofessional or intrusive, and an apartment manager is the appropriate person to talk to if a fellow tenant has ignored your previous requests to stop rollerskating in the hallway at 3 a.m. or is leaving his discarded shotgun shells on the floor of the elevator.

A very important point to bring up on this topic, courtesy of Charles Purdy in his quite enjoyable book Urban Etiquette: “… anonymous notes are at best cowardly and at worst threatening: If you can’t attach your name to it, perhaps it shouldn’t be said at all. An unsigned note addressed to a specific person is appropriate only for secret admirers, credit card companies, and kidnappers demanding ransom.”

SUPERSTITION: If you have a rat problem, you should leave a note for the rats. The ancient Greeks recommend a more threatening tone (“… if I ever catch you here again by the Mother of God I will rend you in seven pieces”) than do the countryfolk of the Ardennes or England (more of a “my neighbor has a lot more grain than I do” tack), but the people of New England are particularly New England-y about it. “The letter should indicate precisely the habitation to which they are assigned, and the road to be taken, and should contain such representations of the advantages of the change as may be supposed to affect the intelligence of the animal in question. A sample:


The Greeks say the note should be placed on a rock writing-side up, the Scots think it should be nailed to the wall or placed under the door one expects the rats to exit by, and the Yanks feel it should be folded up neatly and put into the rats’ hole. The Welsh say you should not bother with a request to vacate but instead write out some sort of mysterious “r.a.t.s. a.t.s.r.” acrostic puzzle and shove it into the King Rat’s mouth. I’m not so sure about that last one.

Photo via Boston Public Library feed on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: Midsummer

Phew. That was a thing. Was the summer solstice yesterday, or the day before? The argument got so heated that I decided not to touch it in favor of Midsummer. Midsummer is Saturday, and Midsummer’s Eve is Friday. Wanna fight about it?

ETIQUETTE: If you’re going to have a Midsummer party, you need to have a few things on the menu. You can mess around with a few options, but don’t mess around with the basics. You need to serve new potatoes, pickled herring, and the season’s first strawberries. Beer and schnapps to drink. Seriously. Don’t mess around.

SUPERSTITION: Oh geez. Midsummer. Such a busy time. On Midsummer’s Eve:

  • Pick a rose, and it will stay fresh until Christmas
  • Pick seven different kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow, and you’ll dream of your future mate
  • Light a bonfire on Midsummer’s Eve so the apple crop won’t spoil
  • Stuff a wheel with straw, light it on fire, and roll it down the hill. If the wheel stays lit all the way down, you’ll have a good harvest this year
  • Pen up the cattle and walk around the pen three times while carrying a torch if you want to avoid them getting diseased or visited by evil forces
  • Hope it doesn’t rain because if it does, your filberts are going to be spoiled.
Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Edwin Landseer

Etiquette & superstition: bananas

Don’t give me tomatoes, can’t stand ice cream cones. I like bananas because they have no bones.

ETIQUETTE: Usually I respect my etiquette elders, but I recently came across a “rule” on Etiquette Scholar that I cannot agree with – namely, that at a formal meal you should eat a banana with a fork. No. No, and let’s just take this apart right now. Primarily, this supposed rule breaks one of the basic tenets of modern etiquette: don’t be overly precious or fussy. Putting on airs is the opposite of etiquette.

Secondarily, you are not going to be served a whole, uncut raw banana at a formal meal. (I know ES is talking about a whole, uncut raw banana because they also recommend that you place the peel on the side of your plate.) For the sake of argument, however, let’s suppose that someone is hatching up a new cuisine right now that involves very fancy raw banana eating. How do you handle it? I say you partially peel the fruit starting from the stem end (don’t tell me I’m doing it wrong; there’s a reason for this), keeping the banana in your hand, and break a piece off for eating with your other hand. Don’t just peel the fruit and take a bite from the entire banana as a monkey would. That’s just asking to be snickered at.

SUPERSTITION: If you bring a banana on a boat, it’s bad luck and at the very least nobody on the boat will catch any fish. Some fishing boat captains will go so far as to ban Banana Boat sunscreen, Banana Republic clothing and even Fruit of the Loom underwear (the label of which doesn’t happen to have a banana, but whatever). If you happen to find yourself on a fishing boat with any of the aforementioned banana items, and you want to actually catch a fish, toss them overboard and try praying to the Hindu crocodile god Kompira/Konpira:

Oh great Konpira
please, hear my plea
I am sorry for my mistake
A banana I brought to sea

it was an honest gesture
a noble means of nutrition
I had no ill intent
I brought fruit of my own volition

Please forgive my idiocy
I meant my friends no harm
We just want to go fishing
and go home with a sore arm

We beg of you to release the curse
upon which I have brought
In your honor I consume these bananas
a sacrifice all for nought

Photo by Julian Burgess on Flickr

I’m your Huckleberry hound

Don’t be alarmed.

This fuzzy gargoyle is named Huckleberry and he has an Instagram feed. Thank you, Huckleberry. Thank you for all you do.

I would give a photo credit for the “don’t be alarmed” notice but I don’t know where this originally came from. Now I’m pondering the etiquette of providing a link to a twitter feed that doesn’t give photo credits. I don’t think I need to provide that link. 

Etiquette & superstition: knuckle cracking

Recently I was on a group forum and I denounced knuckle- and various other joint-crackers as “monsters.” I thought I was being funny, but apparently some joint-cracking enthusiast with experience in the dark arts took offense and put a curse on me, as last night during dinner I very quickly developed some sort of TMJ disorder and now my jaw won’t stop cracking. I apologize, Monster. Please remove this curse. It is driving me insane.

ETIQUETTE: Cracking your joints is not going to give you arthritis. It may or may not reduce your grip strength. But it will annoy someone around you. You can count on this. If you are having discomfort in your joints and the only thing that will alleviate the discomfort is a good hyper-extension of that joint, by all means crack away. But if your knuckle-cracking habit has developed into an unconscious tic that provides you with no actual benefit, break the habit now. That co-worker of yours that hums incessantly? You are worse. Seriously, stop it.

SUPERSTITION: Cracking your knuckles breaks the bones of a deceased loved one. It is also the equivalent of praying the rosary to Satan. On the other hand, it’s a good way to tell how many people are in love with you. Pop all your knuckles and listen for how many cracks come out; that’s how many admirers you have in spite of your terrible joint-cracking habit.

Photo by Dave Goehring on Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: rheumatoid disorders

hanmer-baths

This post is dedicated to my old pal Gort, who has been noticing cures for gout popping up in her Facebook feed lately.

ETIQUETTE: If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, it is perfectly acceptable to not shake a person’s hand when it is offered to you. You may choose to excuse yourself by explaining your situation, but if you are uncomfortable going into your medical history during an introduction, you can try taking their hand in both of yours. Alternatively, you can plan to hold something in your right hand in situations where handshaking is likely to occur.

There is another handshake being promoted by a a rheumatologist lately that involves you approaching the other person’s hand from the top rather than from the side, but it seems to me that unless you are a dowager queen this one could be tricky to pull off. Try to avoid lying about being germophobic, because this will likely make the other person curious about what you will and won’t touch and why… and it’s also just kind of bad to lie about having a medical condition you don’t have.

SUPERSTITION: If you suffer from any sort of rheumatism, you can either:

  • crawl through the arch of a bramble branch that has taken a second root in the ground (this may be quite painful if you have rheumatism, however);
  • ask a person who was born a breech baby to step on you with their bare feet; or
  • place a buckeye, a nutmeg, or a stolen potato in your pocket.

If you suffer specifically from gout, you should rip the legs off a spider and put it on your foot, securing it with deer skin. You’ll be hopping around in no time.

Photo from Archives New Zealand via Flickr

A funny thing happened on the way to the Apocalypse

I recently realized that I didn’t make part two of my “I found this bit of information while searching for some other information” list that I started in July while on a research job. That research job is now complete, and I’d rather think about anything other than the news today, so let’s finish this thing up.

  • There is a photo of Captain Kangaroo at the summit of Mount Everest; his grandson Britton put it there
  • Gary Busey was the last person killed on the TV series Gunsmoke
  • Westinghouse made a clothes dryer in the ’50s that played the song “How Dry I Am” when the load was finished
  • Robert Ardrey and Ashley Montagu were well-respected 20th century anthropologists with conflicting theories about the nature of aggression in humans. Ardrey believed aggression was innate, and Montagu believed it was learned. Perhaps less well-known: Ardrey was also a Hollywood screenwriter (credits include The Three Musketeers and Madame Bovary), and Ashley Montagu’s real name was Israel Ehrenberg but as a young man he changed it to “Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu” for some reason
  • There is no music composed by Beethoven (the human) in any of the Beethoven (dog) movies
  • “Stars and Stripes Forever” is only ever played by a circus band as a signal to personnel that a life-threatening emergency is happening and they must evacuate the audience
  • Mark Twain’s childhood hometown of Hannibal, Missouri is also the hometown of the voice of Jiminy Cricket, Cliff Edwards. Edwards died a penniless drug addict three and a half miles away from where I am writing this now
  • Singing trio The Andrews Sisters became estranged from one another in the ’50s, and Patty Andrews’ husband Wally is frequently cited as the reason for the estrangement. After LaVerne died, Patty and Maxene briefly reunited but soon separated again for reasons unknown. Upon Maxene’s death, Patty reportedly became quite distraught and Wally fell down a flight of stairs, breaking both wrists
  • A new species of iguana was discovered on Fiji after herpetologist John Gibbons watched the Brooke Shields film The Blue Lagoon and noticed some unusual specimens lurking in the background
  • 20th century composer Arnold Schoenberg was extremely superstitious and in particular suffered from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13). He died on a Friday the 13th shortly before midnight
  • There is a Scottish variant of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain” called “O Ye Cannae Shuive Yer Grannie Aff The Bus.” The song allows for you to shove your uncle Willie, your aunt Maggie, and even your paternal grandmother off the bus, but your maternal grandmother is not to be shoved off the bus
  • All-American kitsch favorite PEZ candy was invented in Austria; PEZ is a shortening of the word “pfefferminz
  • Watch this:

That ruthless but stylish pimp is none other than kindly Gordon from Sesame Street.

 

Please be carful

My friend Mike encountered these warning flyers at the Old Zoo the other day.

donodoapeepee

I’m glad someone is putting up warnings, because I for one do not want to encounter a flaming baby or a ginger police demon. The most menacing thing I’ve ever seen at the Old Zoo at midnight is a roving gang of Pokemon Go hunters, but I don’t think I should press my luck.

donodoapeepee2

It just stopped raining and I don’t consider myself particularly macho.

Photos by the ever-adventurous Mike Biggie
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