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

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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

Etiquette & superstition: not keeping secrets

whisper1

I was once asked to pose for some photos with a giant ear. All of my initial poses were me with a “huh? I can’t hear you” face. When he couldn’t stand it any longer, the photographer mentioned that I was posing with a giant ear, and maybe it would make more sense for me to try to tell the giant ear something rather than try to hear what the giant ear was trying to tell me.

ETIQUETTE: The most common form of secret-sharing is the whisper. A whisper expresses that the information being shared is only for the owner of the ear being whispered into, and obviously the owner of that ear should respect that fact and not further disseminate the information being provided by the whisperer.

The only problem with whispering is that it is an uncommonly loud form of communication. People outside the conversation can hear that a conversation is taking place without hearing what the conversation is about. It is an intentional act of exclusion, and it sounds like an angry snake. Whispering is acceptable only when you need to tell someone a short message that would cause them embarrassment if it were heard by others, such as the fact that they have lipstick on their teeth or their fly is undone before an important meeting. If you need to share a longer secret with someone, go to a place where you can speak in a normal tone of voice without others hearing you.

SUPERSTITION: If you need to find out a secret that someone is keeping from you, wait until that person is asleep and then stick a paper funnel in their ear. You can also cut a live goose’s tongue out and stick it on the sleeping person’s chest. They will soon tell all. If this person never sleeps, you can try walking around with an old key in your pocket.

If you find a gold pen, it means that someone has betrayed a secret of yours. Sorry about that, but at least now you have a gold pen.

Whisper-Spark” by Jason Hadley, via Hadley Art
Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm  Comments (2)  
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Etiquette & superstition: noses

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About a week ago I decided in the morning to do an etiquette & superstition post about “triangles,” because I had an etiquette point in mind but decided it was going to be too difficult to find a matching superstition for that exact topic. The vaguer “triangles” subject was going to cover both.

Well, this was all well and good until the evening when I was trying to figure out what the hell my “triangle” etiquette point was going to be about, because of course I hadn’t written it down. I wound up at about 11 p.m. going on Facebook and asking for help from friends for what topic this triangle etiquette thing was supposed to be about. Nothing clicked, and things got pretty weird suggestion-wise.

Benny was snoozing peacefully on the couch as I was muttering, “What is it… what IS it…,” and I guess I was getting a little loud because he asked what I was going on about, and I said, “Etiquette. Triangles. What could that be?” And still half-asleep he said, “Cheese?” And that was it. Benny knows me well.

You’ll notice this post isn’t about triangles. Turns out there aren’t a lot of great superstitions regarding triangles. Let’s move on to noses*.

ETIQUETTE: When cutting a bit of brie from a wedge, it is extremely rude for you to cut straight across the wedge, taking the tip for yourself. This is known as “cutting the nose” off the cheese, and it’s rude because this part is thought of as an especially delicious and creamy part of the cheese. Before this wedge was a wedge, it was part of a circle of cheese, and that tip is what was in the center of that circle.

What you need to do is slice a thin sliver lengthwise along one of the sides of the wedge so that you have some of the center, some of the middle, and some of the outer rind. Oh, and don’t scoop the middle out of the brie, leaving the rind on the plate. Take all of that even if you’re not going to eat the rind (which you really should, I mean come on). I don’t know if this is called picking your nose, but maybe it should be.

SUPERSTITION: A woman’s elbow and a dog’s nose are both cold because when Noah’s Ark sprang a leak, Noah couldn’t find his tools to fix it so he stuck his dog’s nose in the hole. The dog couldn’t breathe, though, so Noah grabbed his wife and jammed her elbow in there. Thanks, Noah.

If you have a nosebleed, you can cure it by stabbing a toad, putting the toad in a sack, and wearing the sack around your neck. Or you can find some moss from a dead man’s head and put that on your face. If both of these are too adventurous for you, you can just take a cold key and press it on your back. Yawn.

Photo by wackystuff on Flickr
*”Why didn’t you just write an etiquette & superstition post about cheese?” you might ask. Well, I already did that. And yes, now I’ve screwed myself if I find a good etiquette tip about noses, but I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Can I haz important?

My friend Vicki found this posted to the largest banyan tree* in the United States. An important note for an important tree.

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Oh geez. This isn’t just an important tree. I just read that in India banyan trees are thought to be inhabited by malevolent spirits. Maybe that’s just Indian banyan trees though, and this pup is fine.

Oh geez, part two. I just read that in Malaysia banyan trees are thought to be inhabited by beings that swing down and terrorize villagers. Maybe this pup is still fine, though. A plush toy isn’t a villager, is it? And again, this isn’t Malaysia. It’s Hawaii.

The only thing I can find about Hawaiian superstitions and banyan trees is that a white woman might be living in the tree somewhere. And I’m sure you can melt her heart with this notice and make her give you back your pup, Kuroki. You definitely melted mine; I think it was the paw print. Best of luck with your quest.

*Settle down; not literally on the tree. That’s clearly a post.
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