Sunday, March 2, 2014

Careful how you place that postage stamp

Click HERE to read a review at the Washington Post.

From To the Letter; a Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing, by Simon Garfield:

In 1938, what may be the most useful manual of all was published in Shanghai. Written by Chen Kwan Yi and Whang Shih, Key to English Letter Writing was a guide that served double duty: it taught the Chinese how to compose personal and business letters in slightly creaky English, and it provided its English readers with invaluable insight into personal and corporate Chinese customs we may not have otherwise been aware of. Unlike Anglo-American guides, these letter templates did not usually concern misfiring sons and their long-suffering fathers, or how best to address a duchess. Instead, the examples were both more mundane and, conceptually, more profound.

Upside down, top right corner = Write no more.
Upside down in line with surname = I am engaged.
Centred on right edge = Write immediately!
At right angle, top left corner = I hate you.

 The stamp-tilting tradition is maintained today in situations where mail is subject to external scrutiny and censorship, in particular in prisons and in the military.