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Weekend Word Wrap: the right words

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In keeping with my theme this week "“ Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, the best-selling book from the 1950s "“ I thought it would be appropriate to use the Word Wrap to look at what she had to say about words.

Suffice it to say, she had A LOT to say on what to say, and when to say it. These interesting excerpts come from a long list she published in her chapter on Correspondence called "Words and Phrases Often Incorrectly Used and Pronounced."

Fifth: Not to be pronounced fith. The second "f" should be heard.

Hairdo: This ugly word has been admitted to American dictionaries because people have trouble pronouncing the more attractive French word "coiffure" and get that confused with "coiffeur," a male hairdresser. Word-sensitive people either use coiffure or some substitute, "Have you arranged (or fixed) your hair in a new way?"

Hosiery: This is a shop or trade term for stockings. It should not be used in conversation.

Limb: Don't use as a nice-nelly substitute for the forthright "leg."

Like: It is colloquial—but ugly—to use "like" as a conjunction, as if it were synonymous with "as." Not "It snowed like it did in January," but "It snowed as it did in January." Why give into the vulgar without a fight? [ed. note: I can just imagine what she would have thought of our modern-day teenage colloquial: "It, like, snowed like it did in January."]

Second: Be sure to sound the "d."

Sore: Correct and acceptable only to describe physical or mental hurt, not a state of irritation. "Was she sore at me!" is a vulgarism.

Vase: It seems affected these days to pronounce this as "vahz" instead of "vaze."

Build or Shape: These vulgar expressions should never be used to indicate a person's "figure," e.g. "Jane has a good shape."

Drapes: Advertising term for "draperies" or "curtains." It should never be used in conversation.

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]


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