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Friday, May 29, 2009

Life is Like a Box of Etiquette Guides

A few days ago, the reference department got a shipment of new treasures. Included was Debrett's A-Z of Modern Manners, a perfectly fabulous little volume. This etiquette book covers topics from Bores, Escaping From to Urinals and Seduction, Art of to Noseblowing. Here is one of my favorites:
Most people love it; many are addicted to it. The important thing is not to look greedy around it. When you are offered a box of chocolates, choose quickly and decisively. Don't spend long minutes studying the guide, visibly weighing up the pros and cons of the selection. Never dive down into the layer underneath, leaving a handful of rejects on top for the next person. If you are a chocoholic, restrain your impulse to eat chocolates compulsively-it should be a private vice.
I love the detailed instructions on how to keep from looking like a greedy glut! (I know I've been guilty of looking for a favorite kind on the next layer down.) I think I need to print a copy of this and have it handy next Christmas. Aren't reference books helpful?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pass the Puff Paste, Please.

In looking for a 1898 murder case this afternoon, I was browsing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, hoping that a Mississippi murder would’ve made the biggest regional paper. While I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did find a great section of the paper called “Women and. . .Society.” It’s no murder, but this section does feature the following:

• Beauty advice, including a long treatise on how lemons are the key to beauty. Did you know that a “dash of lemon juice in plain water is an excellent toothwash, removing not only tartar, but sweetening the breath, and a teaspoonful of the juice will drive off a bilious headache before the sufferer can say caterpillar”? (I’m sure the headache cure has nothing to do with the caffeine in the coffee and everything to do with the power of lemon juice.) I also learned that the juice of a lemon mixed with a teaspoon of baking soda after each meal will “pull the flesh right off the most persistently fat woman who ever worried over her weight.” I know it’s wrong, but I have been cackling over the phrase “persistently fat” for the last hour.

• Society notes, which are less society and more gossip:
--Mrs. Parsons is very much better.
--Miss Lizzie May Smith will go abroad this summer.
--The friends of Mrs. Julia Iverson Patton will regret to learn of her illness.
Sound familiar? This is the 1898 version of Facebook status updates! They are just as boring 111 years ago as they are today.

• The news that scandal rocked the Kentucky town of Jefferson when Miss Belle Berry decided to run for mayor. The story starts with this charming line: “No wonder the world asks what will women do next when The Louisville Courier-Journal publishes the following story as authoritative.” Please!

• And finally, I am gassing up my time machine so that I will not miss this cooking class menu: “Bouillon, puff paste, oyster patties, Richmond maids of honor, cheese sticks and cheese fingers.” And yes, of course I looked up what Richmond maids of honor were. Thank goodness they’re included: the menu is now saved! The rest of that stuff just sounded like torture. Nothing can precede “paste” or “patties” and be good in my book.

Women and. . .Society. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 9 Mar 1898. Page 9. Accessed via ProQuest Historical Newspapers, 27 May 2009.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Week's Roundup.

As a reference librarian, every day I learn something new. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make me a trivia genius. What I am an expert on one day, I am completely ignorant of the next. There goes my Jeopardy! championship.

Here are a few of the things I learned about this week that will be completely foreign to me next week:

• The first bridge over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg was built in 1930. Before this, traincars from the east heading to Texas would float across on a ferry. It sounds crazy to me, too; even crazier is the photo:

• In browsing Martha Hall Foose's Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, I came upon a recipe for quite possibly THE most southern food ever: Sweet Tea Pie. Here's a great article about Southern cooking, too.

• In the 1790s, the Chickasaws of Mississippi had become able farmers, some of whom owned slaves. In a 1790 report by Major John Doughty of the U.S. Army, recounted in Strawberry Plains Audubon Center by Hubert H. Alexander, Doughty reports that the tribe "live in Plenty in their Towns. Their Provisions [include] Hogs, Poultry, Eggs, Beans, Corn & the Finest Potatoes I ever saw. The Chickasaws appear to be verging fast towards the State of Farmer. Game is getting scarce. [They] kill Bear, Otter, Deer, & some Beaver. The Chicksaws and Choctaws dress their skins to make them more valuable. They dispose of large Quantities of Bear Oil for the Orleans Markett [sic]" (5).

Several things about this passage struck me: the Chickasaws owned slaves? What made the potatoes so fine? And while it makes sense that anything with fat can thus be made into oil, I've never seen the words "bear" and "oil" together before.

• The term "panhandling" doesn't come from the act of grasping the handle of a pan and holding it outstretched so that passersby can drop money in it. It actually comes from a (really hard-to-find, by the way) slang term for money in the 1890s: "pan"!

• If you disturb someone by interrupting, you've just interturbed. No, really. It's a word!

Grambs, David. The Endangered English Dictionary: Bodacious Words Your Dictionary Forgot. Norton, 1994. 90.

"Madison Parish, Louisiana Photos of Historic Interest." 22 May 2009.

McAlexander, Hubert H. Strawberry Plains Audubon Center: Four Centuries of a Mississippi Landscape. University Press of Mississippi, 2008. 5.

Farmer, J.S. Slang and Its Analogues. Arno Press, 1970. 132.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mississippi Decoded

About once a week, I end up leafing through the trusty Mississippi Code to find the answer to reference request. Did you know that it's a set of thirty-one books? That's not including the indices, court rules, legal forms, etc..., etc... What a set to lug around, right?! If you ever want to have a glance without shelling out for the whole set, your local public library more than likely has it. You can also contact us!

Today as I flipped to the end of Title 97 (Title 97 gets a whole book to itself!), the word dueling caught my eye. That's right, folks. There is a whole chapter in Mississippi law devoted to the subject of dueling! (I must interject that said chapter is only three pages long.) Of course, the good stuff is all wrapped up in an incoherent slew of legalese. Let me demonstrate:

§ 97-39-5. Leaving the state for purposes of duel.

If any person shall send, deliver, or cause to be sent or delivered, any challenge, written or verbal, in this state, to any person to fight a duel out of this state, or shall leave this state to fight a duel out of the same, or shall accept such challenge out of this state, and shall leave this state for the purpose of fighting a duel; or if any person shall leave this state for the purpose of sending, accepting, or bearing a challenge, or the acceptance thereof, to fight a duel or shall knowingly bear any challenge, or be concerned as second, aid, or surgeon, of either party, without this state, the person so offending shall be subject to the like punishment as is provided in Sections 97-39-1 and 97-39-3.
Isn't that a beautiful thing? I have deciphered this as meaning, "You can't go duel out of state, so don't even try it." I've been wondering if, say, Alabama was having a problem with prospective duelers sneaking over the state line to duke it out in the moonlight.
The rest of the chapter delves into an excruciatingly detailed account of how one cannot duel, watch a duel, help a dueler, get mad at someone who won't duel, and so on. For your further edification, the punishment mentioned above is a $300-$1,000 fine and/or at least 6 months in the county clinky.
We promise to be more faithful about delivering these fascinating nuggets to our admiring public in the future. We hate that you've been having to go without! Goodness, we wouldn't want anyone to challenge us to BB guns at sunup in Tennessee. (How about loaded Oreos?)

Mississippi Code 1972, annotated. LexisNexis, 2008.
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