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Carter’s Lost Note to the Tooth Fairy

After our conversation about long-forgotten items left in books, a volunteer at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, writes to say that he found an old letter to the Tooth Fairy tucked inside a donated book. The letter is from...

Heavy, Heavy Hangover

Clint from Dallas, Texas, recalls a peculiar family tradition for giving birthday presents to a child. A giver would hold a gift over the child’s head and recite: Heavy heavy hangover / Thy poor head / What do you wish this donor? The child...

A Different Kind of Colorful Flag

John from Dallas, Texas, was surprised to learn that a relative who said she was on her way to plant flags at a loved one’s gravesite meant she was going to plant flowers. In addition to meaning “cloth banner,” the word flag is...

Egg-Tapping

Marian from Schroon Lake, New York, says her family plays an egg-tapping game after every Easter egg hunt. Each player takes an egg and taps it against someone else’s, hoping that their own egg won’t crack. The egg that survives a round...

Toi Toi Toi

Laura in San Diego, California, wonders about the tradition of performers saying Toi toi toi to each other backstage to wish each other a good performance. It’s possible that it derives from the ancient idea that spitting three times can ward...

Laurels as an Honor

To garner the laurels, meaning “to collect praise” refers to the ancient practice of awarding crowns of bay laurel leaves to victors in competitions. This tradition of honoring distinction with such a wreath is reflected in the terms...