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: 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: ladders

Oh man. For a minute there I thought I lost one of my favorite superstition reference books. That seemed like a really unlucky thing to do – lose a book on superstitions. Luckily it had just fallen behind the bookshelf. Back to work.

ETIQUETTE: When a man and woman are using a ladder together, the man should go up the ladder first and down the ladder first. He should not look up the lady’s skirt when the lady is descending the ladder, but the lady probably shouldn’t be wearing a skirt while climbing a ladder in the first place.

SUPERSTITION: Yeah, yeah. Don’t walk under a ladder. That old chestnut. Almost six years doing Fancy Notions and I’ve avoided it until now. Do you know why you’re not supposed to walk under a ladder? A ladder, when propped against a wall, forms a triangle, and a triangle symbolizes the Holy Trinity, so when you’re crossing through that triangle, you’re defying the Holy Trinity and that’s bad. You’ll have bad luck, you’ll never marry and you might even be hanged.

If you do walk under a ladder and wish to be protected from bad fortune, just spit over your left shoulder, or spit on your shoe and don’t look at your shoe until the spit has dried, or cross your fingers until you see a dog.

If you didn’t walk under the ladder, and you happen to notice that the ladder has an uneven number of rungs, climb up the ladder to ensure your future success.

Photo by sbluerock on Flickr
Published in: on January 10, 2014 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Etiquette & superstition: winking and blinking

This weekend I observed a man not blink for 20 minutes. His eyes were open and everything.

ETIQUETTE: The early 20th century pamphlet “All About Girls” (found via The Hairpin, eventually) has a lot of rules about what eye gestures mean. I was happy to find these, as I now feel that my “avoid human eye contact” modus operandi is completely justified.

SUPERSTITION: It is unlucky to meet a squinting person of the opposite sex. If you meet a squinting person, you must either:

  • speak to him/her
  • spit over your left shoulder
  • spit three times, or
  • return home and eat a meal

in order to counteract the bad luck.

Photo by 2002ttorry on Flickr


Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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