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10 Emily Post Tips on Things Like Dressing to Meet the Pope and Shooing Away Drunks

Today is the 139th anniversary of etiquette guru Emily Post’s birth. We’ve got a copy of the eleventh revised edition of her classic tome Etiquette here in the mental_floss New York office, and it’s a terrific read if you ever need pointers on how to behave in 1965. In honor of Mrs. Post’s birthday, here are 10 helpful tips and admonitions from the text.

1. On eating corn on the cob: “To attack corn on the cob with as little ferocity as possible is perhaps the only direction to be given, and the only maxim to bear in mind when eating this pleasant-to-taste but not-very-easy-to-manage vegetable is to eat it as neatly as possible…The real thing to avoid is too much buttering all at once and too greedy eating.”

2. On proper attire for dates: "It is always better to be under- than over-dressed. Should she discover that her date is dressed for bowling while she thought they were going to a cocktail party, she should excuse herself for ten minutes - no more! - while she hastily changes into something more casual."

3. On the behavior of an engaged couple: “It is unnecessary to say that an engaged man shows no marked interest in other women.”

4. On greeting other guests before a wedding: “At a wedding it is proper to smile and bow slightly to people you know - even to talk briefly in a very low voice to a friend sitting next to you. But when you find yourself among strangers, you just sit quietly until the processional starts."

5. On refusing to dance:

“To refuse to dance with one man and then immediately dance with another is an open affront to the first one – excusable only if he was intoxicated or otherwise offensive so that the affront was justified.”

6. On dressing for an audience with the Pope: “The rules of dress for visitors to the Pope are not so strict as they once were. But even now for a private or special audience, men traditionally wear evening dress with tails or sack coat and women long-sleeved black dresses and veils over their hair. No one may wear any but the most functional jewelry.”

7. On women dining together: "When several women are dining out together the problem of the check is one that can cause concern to and confusion among the waiters, the nearby diners, and the women themselves. Women so seldom are able to separate a check into several parts with grace and speed that the cartoon of feminine heads clustered about the waiter's tab, captioned, 'Now let's see, Ethel, you had the Tomato Surprise,' is familiar to all of us."

8. On refusing wine: “If you do not wish wine, it is best – because least conspicuous - to allow a little to be poured into your glass. Unless your host happens to be looking at your glass when the wine is poured, he will not know later on that your almost empty glass was never filled. On the other hand, if he did happen to notice, he could not feel that much wine was wasted.”

9. On eye makeup: "Heavily made up eyes belong only on the stage or in the chorus line."

10. On the similarities between being witty and opium addiction: “In great danger of making enemies is the man or woman of brilliant wit. Sharp wit tends to produce a feeling of mistrust even while it stimulates. Furthermore, the applause that follows every witty sally becomes in time breath to the nostrils, and perfectly well-intentioned people who mean to say nothing unkind in the flash of a second 'see a point' and in the next second score it with no more power to resist than a drug addict has to refuse a dose put into his hand.”

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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