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5 Ways to Avoid Being Rude (According to 100-Year-Old Etiquette Rules)

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According to etiquette books of the past, it was pretty easy to be offensive. To show you were of good breeding, you had to adhere to strict parameters surrounding speech, behavior, dress, and eating. Some of those mores were so detailed and odd that they are absolutely foreign to us now. At any rate, by the standards of 100 years ago, you are an incredibly rude person.

1. At the table

Today, most women at a baby shower will leave the last piece of scrumptious chocolate cream pie to wilt on the plate, instead of being the selfish soul to "take the last piece." (It has been my experience that neither men nor children suffer from this crippling politeness.) According to Dr. Jefferis, however, writer of 1904's Search Lights on Health, it is rude not to take the last piece. "Do not hesitate to take the last piece on the dish, simply because it is the last. To do so is to directly express the fear that you would exhaust the supply."

He provides further instruction on good table manners. For instance, should you find a worm or insect in your food, say nothing of it. In fact, no unpleasant talk at all. No matter what. "If an accident of any kind so ever should occur during dinner, the cause being who or what it may, you should not seem to note it… Should you be so unfortunate as to overturn or to break anything, you should make no apology. You might let your regret appear in your face, but it would not be proper to put it in words." The gravy boat is spilled. Anoint your head in ashes, gnash your teeth, and rend your clothing. Just be quiet about it or you'll make things awkward.

2. In language

Mrs. Duffey, a 19th century expert on manners and feminist author of the 1877 The Ladies' and Gentlemen's Etiquette, warns her readers to be careful in conversation. Don't ask impertinent questions. Which could be any question, since you have no idea what will offend your companion. Better to avoid the problem altogether and never allow the lilt of a question mark to stain your speech. If you want to know how your friend's brother is, do not say, "How is your brother?" Say, "I hope your brother is well." Passive-aggressive nosiness is far more acceptable than brazen, well-intentioned curiosity.

Jefferis goes further, offering a list of language that is too ignorant to be used in polite company.

"Don't say feller, winder, to-morrer, for fellow, window, tomorrow." Here Jefferis clearly underestimates the charm of someone who talks like Granny Clampett.

And his crowning piece of grammatical advice, "Don't say I say, says I, but simply say I said." (Direct quote, hand to God.)

Some of his advice is still appropriate.

"Do not always commence a conversation by allusion to the weather." Or asking about the kids. (They're kids. They run around being useless, sticky, and just cute enough so that you'd feel bad if you didn't feed them.) Or asking about the other person's work, which you know you're not really interested in. Besides, you're not supposed to be asking questions anyway.

By process of elimination, the best way to initiate conversation would be by declaring something impersonal, interesting, and educated. Greet a new person, shake hands, and declare, "I am fond of potatoes, which the French call 'apples of the earth'." See where that takes you.

3. On the street

Men and women are expected to conduct themselves differently while walking down the street. Men are not to lurk in doorways.

"A gentleman will not stand on the street corners or in hotel doorways, or store windows and gaze impertinently at ladies as they pass by. This is the exclusive business of loafers," says Jefferis.

Whereas it is a man's job to make himself visible, a woman is asked to do the opposite. "Your conduct on the street should always be modest and dignified. Ladies should carefully avoid all loud and boisterous conversation or laughter, and all undue liveliness in public." To appear at all happy or talkative would draw the attention of those impertinent loafers. Also, be ever so careful how much ankle those creepers can get off you:

"In crossing the street a lady should gracefully raise her dress a little above her ankle with one hand. To raise the dress with both hands is vulgar, except in places where the mud is very deep."

As for offering to carry a lady's packages, according to Emily Post, writing in the 1922 print of Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home, a real lady wouldn't be carrying "bundles" in the first place. Asking a man to do so is to emasculate him in front of the entire town. An exception is allowed for small, tidy square packages or anything that is obviously nice, like flowers or fruit. Otherwise, should the woman ask for help, "[She should not] wonder why her admirer never comes to see her anymore!" It's an indisputable scientific fact that asking a man to carry shopping left more women alone to die old maids than did the casualties of the First and Second World Wars combined.

4. Specifically for ladies

There are two things a lady needs to know to survive in polite company. How to sit, and how to please men. I know, that sounds medieval and ridiculous, but if a lady doesn't sit properly how will you know she's a lady?

How to sit
Emily Post reminded women how their mothers were not allowed to cross their knees, put hands on their hips, twist in a chair, or lean back. But by the '20s, these things were allowed, within reason.

No lady should cross her knees so that her skirts go up to or above them; neither should her foot be thrust out so that her toes are at knee level. An arm a-kimbo is not a graceful attitude, nor is a twisted spine! Everyone, of course, leans against a chair back… but a lady should never throw herself almost at full length in a reclining chair or on a wide sofa when she is out in public.

The proper way for a lady to sit is in the center of her chair, or slightly sideways in the corner of a sofa. She may lean back, her hands relaxed in her lap, her knees together, or if crossed, her foot must not be thrust forward so as to leave a space between the heel and her other ankle. On informal occasions she can lean back in an easy chair with her hands on the arms.

To clarify, you may use the chair's armrests. On informal occasions only. Preferably in a locked room, alone.

How to please a man
One can always trust Dr. Jefferis to be plainspoken in even the most ticklish of subjects.

No woman can afford to treat men rudely. She must remember that the art of pleasing and entertaining gentlemen is infinitely more ornamental than laces, ribbons, or diamonds…. and as women are more or less dependent upon man's good-will, either for gain or pleasure, it surely stands to their interest to be reasonably pleasant and courteous in his presence or society.

This sentiment, that women are dependent on man's good nature like a dog upon its master's, may sting and enrage. But considering the time it was written, what is even more stinging is the possible truth of it.

So you need to be careful exactly how you set about pleasing your man. For women are like books. No, wait. They're like seed corn. No! Better! Ornamental furniture!

For women are like books — too much gilding makes men suspicious, that the binding is the most important part. The body is the shell of the soul, and the dress is the husk of the body; but the husk generally tells what the kernel is. As a fashionably dressed young lady passed some gentlemen, one of them raised his hat, whereupon another, struck by the fine appearance of the lady, made some inquiries concerning her, and was answered thus: "She makes a pretty ornament in her father's house, but otherwise is of no use."

5. Gallantry for gentlemen

As is often the case in old advice manuals, instruction for men on how to better themselves is scant. The little bit that Jefferis offers is especially charming for how applicable it still is today.

Propriety is outraged when a man of sixty dresses like youth of sixteen. It is bad manners for a gentleman to use perfumes to a noticeable extent. Avoid affecting singularity in dress. Expensive clothes are no sign of a gentleman.

Friend, you're 46. Put away the board shorts. Take off the baseball cap or at least put it on straight. Leave off the Axe body spray. And if you paid $200 for a pair of jeans that already have strategic holes ripped into them, well, there is nothing any advice book can do for you.

One of the only other tricky elements a man must navigate is when it is appropriate to give a lady his arm. It is a sexually potent act that leads many a fine girl to ruin. Arm-offering is how our streets came to echo with the plaintive cries of unwed mothers and their starving ill-gotten young.

Now, a gentleman may offer his arm to an old lady at any time. To a young woman who is not his wife, there are very specific rules. It must be dark and treacherous to warrant touching, say crossing a busy, icy road at night. He may offer his arm if he is the usher at a wedding, but not if he is escorting a woman at a ball, as that is no longer the fashion. A gentleman never takes a lady's arm, as that would make him a sissy boy.

It was refreshing to encounter one last piece of advice from Mrs. Duffey, who politely shows her feminist colors regarding how a gentleman should treat a lady.

If you are a gentleman, never lower the intellectual standard of your conversation in addressing ladies. Pay them the compliment of seeming to consider them capable of an equal understanding with gentlemen. You will, no doubt, be somewhat surprised to find in how many cases the supposition will be grounded on fact, and in the few instances where it is not. When you "come down' to commonplace or small talk with an intelligent lady, one of two things is the consequence: She either recognizes the condescension and despises you, or else she accepts it as the highest intellectual effort of which you are capable, and rates you accordingly.

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11 Scientific Benefits of Having a Laugh
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They say that laughter is "the best medicine," and as it turns out, there is some scientific truth to this assertion. Humor-associated laughter has numerous health benefits, so here are 11 reasons you should laugh it up.

1. LAUGHTER IS A SIGN OF GOOD WILL TOWARD OTHERS.

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Laughter may be unique to humans. Why do we do it? According to a 2010 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, laughter and smiling are generally intended as a message of good will. The authors extrapolate that there is a similar function in primates, who use facial expressions with bared teeth to suggest friendliness and sociability. They write, "Because some forms of smiling are voluntary and easily faked, laughter, which requires a more synergetic contraction of the wider musculature, is believed to have evolved in humans to express a secure, safe message to others."

2. IT MAY REDUCE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE.

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High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the most dangerous side effects of stress, as well as a huge risk factor for heart disease and stroke. However, it's hard to be stressed when you're laughing, so researchers have investigated whether laughter can bring blood pressure down. There are more than a few studies that show a reduction of blood pressure after laughter, such as a 2017 study in the Journal of Dental and Medical Research, where 40 patients undergoing hemodialysis listened to CDs of comic shows for 16 30-minute sessions over eight weeks, and saw a decrease in blood pressure.

In 2011 researchers presented results of a three-month-long study at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions. Researchers exposed 79 participants to either a music or laughter therapy. Laughter was stimulated through "playful eye contact" and breathing exercises. Immediately after sessions, the blood pressure readings from the laughers lowered by 7 mmHg—(millimeters of mercury, how the blood pressure readings on a sphygmomanometer are abbreviated). In comparison, music therapy only brought blood pressure down by 6 mmHg.

After three months, the blood pressure readings significantly decreased overall by 5 mmHg among the laughers. People in the comparison group showed no change in blood pressure readings.

3. THIS HAS LED TO A TREATMENT KNOWN AS LAUGHTER YOGA.

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The success of laughter studies on blood pressure and other ills has led to a unique kind of treatment known as "laughter yoga."

Madan Kataria, founder of the Laughter Yoga School, told Medscape, "You don't need any jokes, any humor, or any comedy. You don't even need to be happy. What we do is laugh in a group and initiate laughter as a form of bodily exercise, but when we have eye contact with others, this laughter becomes real and contagious."

Kataria led a study of 200 male and female individuals who participated in laughter yoga sessions for 20 to 30 minutes. The researchers stimulated laughter in the participants for between 45 seconds and one minute, followed by deep breathing and stretching for the duration of the sessions.

Subjects who laughed saw a reduction in their systolic blood pressure of more than 6 mmHg, a significant change from baseline and also significant when compared with a non-laughing control group. Diastolic blood pressure was also significantly reduced. In addition, their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, were also reduced.

As a result, laughter yoga has gone on to be used as an intervention for a variety of health issues, ranging from stress to dementia.

4. LAUGHTER CAN REDUCE ANXIETY AND OTHER NEGATIVE EMOTIONS.

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A 1990 study in Psychological Reports looked at the effects of humorous laughter on threat-induced anxiety. Researchers led 53 college students to believe (falsely) that they were going to receive an electric shock after a waiting period.

Subjects in the experiment group listened to a humorous tape while waiting for their shock. The placebo group listened to a non-humorous tape, and the control group did not listen to any tape. The humor group reported that their anxiety decreased during the anticipatory period, and those with the highest self-reported level of sense of humor had the lowest reported anxiety.

Laughter therapy has also been shown to improve anxiety in patients with Parkinson's disease [PDF], reduce anxiety and depression in nursing students, and improve optimism, self-esteem, and depression in menopausal women.

From a general psychological perspective, author Bernard Saper suggests in a paper for Psychiatric Quarterly that the ability to maintain a sense of humor and the ability to laugh can act as positive coping mechanisms to help a person get through difficult times.

5. LAUGHTER AS AN IMMUNE BOOSTER.

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At the beginning of cold and flu season, it may be a good idea to practice some laughter therapy, as several studies have shown the immune boosting power of a chuckle.

In one 2015 study on postpartum mothers in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers tested hand-expressed breast milk for immunoglobulin (IgA, antibodies that play an important role in immune function) before and after laughter therapy. 

Twice a week, participants engaged in group "laughter dance routines" and some light breast massage while inducing laughter. Mothers who participated in the laughter therapy saw a small increase in their IgA. However, even a small amount was significant to the researchers, given that the postpartum period is when natural IgA in breast milk declines (it is at its highest level right after delivery, in the earliest, nutrient-dense breast milk known as colostrum).

Another study with college students found that watching funny movies increases salivary IgA (sIgA). Researchers have also found small examples of laughter's ability to increase the body's natural killer cells (NKs), a type of lymphocyte that is easy to test for in the blood. One study in the American Journal of Medical Science, albeit small—a cohort of only 10 male subjects—found significantly increased NK cell activity in the experimental group. Additional studies have shown increases in NK cell activity after laughter therapy or humorous videos, but most of these studies were done on male subjects

6. LAUGHTER MAY ACT AS A NATURAL ANTI-DEPRESSANT.

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While nobody would recommend laughter in lieu of other treatment for depression, it has shown promise at ameliorating depressed moods. Patients in long-term care facilities often suffer from depression and poor sleep, so a 2017 study in the Korean Journal of Adult Nursing [PDF] tested the effects of laughter therapy on 42 residents of two long-term care hospitals. The results were promising.

The laugher therapy, which the subjects undertook over eight sessions, for 40 minutes twice a week, included "singing funny songs, laughing for diversion, stretching, playing with hands and dance routines, laughing exercises, healthy clapping, and laughing aloud."

The results showed reduced depression and general mood improvement as well as improved sleep in the experiment group compared to the control group.

Another 2015 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that three 60-minute laughter therapy sessions improved the depression and negative mood states of cancer patients.

7. YOU BREATHE BETTER AFTER LAUGHING.

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It turns out that a good bout of deep belly laughter can lead to increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption, which are similar to what happens during exercise. While a 2009 study in the International Journal of Humor Research found that these changes only last as long as the laughter itself, if you can laugh like that for 30 minutes to an hour, maybe you can skip the gym.

8. LAUGHTER IS GOOD FOR YOUR CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM.

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Your lungs aren't the only organ that benefits from a great guffaw. A 2009 study in Medical Hypotheses found powerful benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system.

Study participants watched either a comedy like Saturday Night Live or the bleak opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, which is known to increase mental stress. They used a technique called brachial artery reactivity testing (BART), a form of ultrasound that looks at the brachial artery. Participants who watched the stressful movie experienced a 35 percent reduction in flow-mediated vasodilation (FMD, or how blood vessels dilate and contract); sluggish FMD is a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, the group that watched the funny scene saw a 22 percent increase in FMD, comparable to exercise. In short, laughing helped their blood flow better.

The American Heart Association recommends laughter for a healthy heart, adding that research has shown laughter promotes reduced artery inflammation and increased production of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

9. LAUGHTER CALMS STRESS HORMONES.

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Humor, and by extension, laughter, stimulates multiple physiological systems that decrease levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and epinephrine, and increase the activation of the dopamine-dispensing reward system of the brain, according to researchers of a 2017 study in Advances in Physiology Education. A 2003 study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found that viewing a funny film decreased a wide variety of stress hormones.

10. SOCIAL LAUGHTER CAN RELIEVE PAIN.

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Laughter might be as good as some analgesics for pain, something early physicians seemed to understand. In the 14th century, French surgeon Henri de Mondeville used humor to distract patients from the pain of surgery and to help them during recovery.

More modern research has found that participants who watched comedy videos needed less pain medication than those who watched control videos. In a 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, over the course of six experiments using extreme cold as a pain-tolerance measure, researchers found that social laughter—laughter done in groups in a social context—elevates pain thresholds. The authors suggest, "These results can best be explained by the action of endorphins released by laughter."

11. LAUGHING BURNS CALORIES.

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As if all of these benefits aren't a good enough reason to giggle every day, a 2014 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that laughter can burn calories. Researchers broke a group of 45 participants into two groups, half of whom watched film clips intended to evoke laughter for approximately 10 minutes, and half who watched film clips unlikely to stimulate laughter. Both groups were attached to a "calorimeter" that measured energy expenditure and heart rate. They determined that those who laughed during their viewing burned up to 10 calories in 10 minutes, as compared to those who did not laugh and did not burn any calories.

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7 Fast Facts About Animal Farting
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Anyone who’s had a pet can testify that dogs and cats occasionally get gassy, letting rip noxious farts and then innocently looking up as if to say “Who, me?” You may not have considered the full breadth of animal life passing gas in the world, though—and not just mammals. In a new book, ecologist Nick Caruso and zoologist Dani Rabaiotti detail the farting habits (or lack thereof) of 80 different animals. Here are seven weird animal farting facts we learned from Does It Fart?.

1. FOR ONE FISH, FARTING IS AN EMERGENCY.

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The diet of the Bolson pupfish, a freshwater fish found in northern Mexico, can lead to dangerous levels of gas. The pupfish feeds on algae, and it can inadvertently eat the gas bubbles that algae produces in warm temperatures. The air inflates the fish’s intestines and distends its belly, messing with its equilibrium and making it difficult to swim. Even if it tries to bury itself in sediment at the bottom of a pool, as Bolson pupfish are wont to do, the air causes the fish to rise to the surface, where it’s at risk of being eaten by a bird. If the fish doesn’t fart, it will likely die, either from predation or because its intestines rupture under the pressure of the trapped gas.

2. MANATEES USE FARTS AS A SWIMMING TECHNIQUE.

The Bolson pupfish isn't the only animal that needs healthy farts to maneuver underwater. Buoyancy is vital for swimming manatees, and they rely on digestive gas to keep them afloat. The West Indian manatee has pouches in its intestines where it can store farty gasses. When they have a lot of gas stored up, they’re naturally more buoyant, floating to the surface of the water. When they fart out that gas, they sink. Unfortunately, that means that a manatee’s ability to fart is vital to its well-being. When a manatee is constipated and can’t pass gas properly, it can lose the ability to swim properly and end up floating around with its tail above its head.

3. TERMITE FARTS ARE A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE OF GLOBAL EMISSIONS.

A black-and-white illustration of a termite farting
Ethan Kocak

They’re not as bad as cars or cows, but termites fart a lot, and because they are so numerous, that results in a lot of methane. Each termite only lets rip about half a microgram of methane gas a day, but every termite colony is made up of millions of individuals, and termites live all over the world. All told, the insects produce somewhere between 5 and 19 percent of global methane emissions per year.

4. FERRETS ARE SURPRISED BY THEIR OWN FARTS.

Ferrets are quite the fart machines. They not only let ‘em rip while pooping—which they do every few hours on a normal day—but they get particularly gassy when they’re stressed. The pungent smells are often news to their creators, though. According to the book, “owners often report a confused look on their pet’s face in the direction of their backside after they audibly pass gas.” And you don't want your ferret to get really scared: Their fear response involves screaming, puffing up, and simultaneous farting and pooping.

5. A BEADED LACEWING’S FARTS CAN BE DEADLY.

A black-and-white illustration of a beaded lacewing standing triumphantly over a prone termite
Ethan Kocak

A winged insect known as the beaded lacewing carries a powerful weapon within its butt, what Caruso and Rabaiotti call “one of the very few genuinely fatal farts known to science.” As a hunting strategy, Lomamyia latipennis larvae release a potent fart containing the chemical allomone, paralyzing and killing their termite prey.

6. WHALE FARTS MAKE QUITE THE SPLASH.

A black-and-white illustration of a whale farting above water while a woman on a boat speeds behind it
Ethan Kocak

As befits their size, whales produce some of biggest farts on the planet. A blue whale’s digestive system can hold up to a ton of food in its multiple stomach chambers, and there are plenty of bacteria in that system waiting to break that food down. This, of course, leads to farts. While not many whale farts have been caught on camera, scientists have witnessed them—and report them to be “incredibly pungent,” as Rabaiotti and Caruso tell it.

7. NOT ALL ANIMALS FART.

Octopuses don’t fart, nor do other sea creatures like soft-shell clams or sea anemones. Birds don’t, either. Meanwhile, sloths may be the only mammal that doesn’t fart, according to the book (although the case for bat farts is pretty tenuous). Having a belly full of trapped gas is dangerous for a sloth. If things are working normally, the methane produced by their gut bacteria is absorbed into their bloodstream and eventually breathed out.

The woodlouse has an odd way of getting rid of gas, too, though it’s technically not flatulence. Instead of peeing, woodlice excrete ammonia through their exoskeleton, with bursts of these full-body “farts” lasting up to an hour at a time.

The cover of 'Does It Fart?'
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Does It Fart? is available for $15 from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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