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

Etiquette & superstition: voluntary and involuntary surrender of cream

“Etiquette & superstition: got milk?” actually would have worked quite well here as a title, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s 2017.

ETIQUETTE: If you’re having coffee or tea with someone and they ask you to pass the cream, the polite way to do this is to pick up the cream pitcher by the handle, transfer it to your other hand (grabbing it by the front of the pitcher), and offer it to the requestor with the handle facing them.

If you are at a coffee house, tea room, or diner and you discover that the milk or cream receptacle is empty (either by your actions or someone else’s), tell the waitstaff so that they may refill it. Do not leave a dairy carafe empty for someone else to discover. Seriously; even Urban Dictionary recognizes this as a faux pas. It’s barely one step up from when you were nine and you left the milk carton in the fridge with only a teaspoon of milk left in it.

SUPERSTITION: If you’re a Scandinavian witch, there are a lot of ways you can steal someone’s cream without getting caught.

  1. You can make a troll cat, which sometimes looks like a cat and sometimes looks like a cow’s hairball but totally isn’t, by rolling up a bunch of junk from the floor like fingernail clippings and sawdust and hair, then putting three drops of your blood on the ball and asking for help from Satan.
  2. You can make a milk hare out of an old sock and some wooden pegs for the ears.
  3. You can make a “til-beri” out of a dead man’s rib by rolling the rib up in stolen yarn, hiding it between your breasts, and dribbling Sacrament wine onto it over three consecutive Sundays. Once it’s strong enough from the wine, then you cut a little hole on your thigh and let it suckle from that for a while.

Now you’re ready for some milk-stealing. Just send your little helper out, and they will soon suck up a bunch of milk from your neighbors’ milk troughs and then come back and spit all the milk back out into your milk bucket. Ta da! Milk for days.

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

Etiquette & superstition: not keeping secrets

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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.

Etiquette & superstition: old wood

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Many years ago, a friend gave me a wooden pipe that had been carved into the shape of a penis. It never got used much by anyone and we will not speak of it again, at least in this post.

ETIQUETTE: If you are having a dinner party but wish to show off your lovely antique wooden table, it is perfectly acceptable for you to use nice placemats instead of a tablecloth. Keep your place settings as simple as possible to avoid a cluttered “island of utensils” look, and make sure you have enough trivets and coasters for any serving dishes and implements that are on the table.

SUPERSTITION: According to the letters received by the rangers (check them out here and here), if you steal a piece of petrified wood from the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona terrible things will happen to you. Your dog will die, your fancy new vase from Mexico will break, a loved one will get kidney problems or cancer, and you will fall through the roof of your new house. You’ll probably have some car problems as well.

Don’t bother sending that piece of petrified wood back to the park, either; the rangers can’t verify where it’s supposed to go even if you draw them a fancy map, and they’ll have to throw it onto the ever-growing cursed Pile Of Conscience they started by the side of some unlucky road.

Photo by Philip Porter via Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: parsley

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I’ve been somewhat lax in posting lately; I confess that I find it difficult to write in a lighthearted tone when I feel like punching people in the throat. I believe there are 48 days until the 2016 presidential election. Hopefully I will be able to maintain a cooler head in the days to come so that we all may continue enjoying our Fancy Notions. Let’s talk about parsley

ETIQUETTE: Parsley is used as a garnish for a savory food dish; it should not decorate a dessert plate. This sturdy sprig is perfectly acceptable to eat and in fact will help overcome strong mouth odors you may have acquired from consuming a pungent meal. Simply pick up the sprig with your fingers (no need to be overly daintly with a fork unless it is covered in sauce for some reason), and chew well before swallowing.

If you are dining with a companion who has parsley stuck in his or her teeth, let them know in an unobtrusive manner as quickly as possible. If you are the person with the parsley tooth, and your first couple of attempts to swish or wipe the leaf away are not successful, excuse yourself from the table and attend to the matter yourself in the restroom. Your partner’s attempts to pantomime the exact location of the bit are clearly not helping and you both look ridiculous.

SUPERSTITION: A wreath of parsley worn around the neck will prevent intoxication. How you get this parsley, however, is a bit trickier. People don’t give parsley to others unless they want a heap of bad luck. You’re going to have to grow it yourself. If you’re a woman in charge of planting the parsley, be advised this you might get pregnant by doing so. More on this later; moving on.

Plant the parsley in the place you intend it to stay, because transplanting it will kill someone in the household within the year. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t sprout right away; only very wicked people seem to have luck growing it. Oh hey, are you a woman who is worried that she got pregnant when she planted parsley? Stick some sprigs in your vagina and you’ll get your period soon enough.

Photo by Peter Lindberg via Flickr

Etiquette & superstition: unwanted fires around the domicile

Fancy Notioners, I must beg your forgiveness for being absent this past week and a half. I am tempted to lay the blame on this little eight-acre fire

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that broke out on Sunday in the lot next door to us

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(yes, that is our garden hose trickle and yes, I have titled that photo “Impotence”) and melted all wifi and cable connections to the residents of our fair hill,

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said wifi connectivity only returning to us today. But the truth is that I had already been quite tardy in posting by the time that fire broke out, so I really have no excuse. Please do forgive me.

ETIQUETTE: A reader wrote in to Miss Manners some time ago inquiring about the proper attire for fleeing an unexpected trash fire in or around one’s domicile, seeing as how said reader noted that such occurrences happened with some regularity in his apartment building, and invariably required interactions with his neighbors.

Miss Manners replied that events of this sort should be considered “come as you are”-type affairs, and I must say this is a relief. I now know that the neighbor in our driveway on Sunday exhorting Benny to put on a shirt and me to get something on my feet was merely speaking out of concern for our safety and not from disgust at our loathsome conflagration outfits.

SUPERSTITION: Making sure your household electrical wiring is up to date and that all dry brush is cleared from within 200 feet of your home is all well and good, but if you really want to protect your domicile, take the proper steps: place an adders skin in the rafters, put some dry seaweed in a frame on the mantel, and hang an egg laid on Ascension Day from the roof and you should be all set.

First photo above via ABC7; second photo by Benny while he was protecting our property; third photo of the shed on the empty lot that the creepy neighbor kids can’t smoke pot in anymore by me

Etiquette & superstition: Oxford University academic dress

I really wanted to make a post about fringe today, because this weekend I saw the most incredible academic cap:

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Oh gosh, that doesn’t do it justice. Here is a close-up of one in light blue:

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Nope; still doesn’t do it. You have to see one of these things in motion. It is wonderful. And if you ever want to get a PhD, maybe you should pursue it in Spain, because if you do wind up getting that degree, you will also get this cap.

But I digress. I was unable to find any etiquette and superstition about fringe that was even half as good as this cap, so I am going to talk about academic dress at the University of Oxford.

ETIQUETTE: I’m sure it’s obvious to you that I would never make it as an Oxford scholar. It’s certainly obvious to me, as I can hardly figure out their dress code as officially stated in their Statutes and Regulations. Thankfully, there is a more colloquial version they provide.

As an Oxford student, you need to wear an appropriate academic gown, a mortarboard or soft cap, dark suit, white shirt, black shoes and dark socks or hosiery, and white or black bow tie or a black ribbon at all formal University ceremonies. This get-up is called sub fusc. No shorts and flip-flops under your gown. Sorry, Chris from Real Genius.

One of the places you have to wear sub fusc is to exams. During your exams you will also want to wear a carnation. You wear a white carnation to your first exam, pink carnations to the next ones up to your final exam, to which you wear a red carnation.

Immediately after your final exams as an Oxford student, it is tradition for your friends to throw beans, eggs, foam and confetti on you. Thankfully, it is also tradition for them to provide you with champagne.

SUPERSTITION: After you have been doused with a bunch of crap and given a bottle of champagne, if you belong to Jesus College you should try to hit the clock in Second Quad with the cork. If you do, you will ace your exams.

And while it is a recommended sub fusc headwear option, it is bad luck for you to wear your mortarboard before you graduate, and good thing too, because beans, eggs, foam and confetti are pretty hard to wash out of a mortarboard and those things are expensive.

Top photo by Jesus Angel Hernandez de Rojas from Valladolid, España – Honoris Causa de Camacho; second photo via University Of Portland

 

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