News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

February 24, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Preference wins over etiquette every time

TERRE HAUTE — It’s a source of amusement to me when I read about the trivia which concerns some folks.

From time to time over the years, the debate has been carried forward in all sorts of columns from advice gurus and the ever-popular Emily Post. I suppose even Dorothy Dix, the original advice lady, was roped in to set standards.

The other morning “Dear Abby” was called upon to rule on the propriety of licking one’s fingers after handling finger-food which might leave a residue of salt or sweet or sauce eminently lickable. Abby confessed that she sometimes cleaned her fingers with a surreptitious lick. Furthermore, however offensive Abby’s correspondent may consider finger-licking, I’m going to lick every time there is a chocolate residue on my fingers. After all, as Abby pointed out, Colonel Sanders advertises his chicken as finger-lickin’ good, and who am I to argue?

My all-time favorite in the propriety discussion has to do with what I call “the toilet paper wars.” It crops up from time to time with Abby or Miss Manners or whatever your arbitrator of choice. It boils down to the “proper” way to hang a roll of toilet paper.

There is a school of thought which believes the next available sheet should fall from the back of the roll. The nay-sayers insist that the loose end should go over the top and down. One response pointed out that she hung her toilet paper so that it fell from over the top because if her cat saw the paper dangling from the bottom it would spin the roll and her paper was all over the bathroom. She noted that if she was in error and the “right” to hang her paper was the way her cat liked it, she would mend her ways.

Although it seemed to be a logical solution to her playful cat problem, a torrent of mail ensued. She had her defenders, but she also had countless letters urging her to shape up and hang her toilet paper the way it was “meant to be hung.”

Maybe there actually is a right way to hang toilet paper. Personally, I hang mine with the paper over the top and falling from the front. I have had guests who, when hanging a fresh roll, hang it the other way.

If it’s more comfortable for them, I’m OK with it and can always do it my way when they pack up and go home.

In the great scheme of things, what does it matter? If you are offended by licked fingers, look the other way.

If you don’t like the way your hostess hangs toilet paper, change it to suit you. You won’t have changed her habit, but it can — and will — be changed back the way she likes it.

I don’t think etiquette enters into it.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Her column has appeared on this page for more than 20 years. Send email to

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