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9:00am on Thursday, 9th November, 2006:



It's that time of the year when the people of Britain start wearing poppies in remembrance of (originally) those who died in World War I. I always buy one, because if I'd been drafted into the army and shot at I'd not be all that pleased at the level of subsequent support given by the government alone. The Royal British Legion, which runs the campaign, is one of only two charities I ever regularly give to (the other being the RNLI), but it's the poppy itself I'm going to complain about today. Specifically, where it's worn.

Poppies are supposed to be worn in buttonholes. OK, so you can wear them on a hat or on a sleeve or on the front of a car, but they were actually made to fit the buttonhole. This is where the newsreaders and the politicians and most of the populace do wear them, in fact — if they have a buttonhole. Of course, not every jacket has a buttonhole, which is why poppies come with pins (if you want one). You can pin it to your lapel instead of putting it through the buttonhole.

Ah, but which lapel?

Well the answer is quite simple: the side the buttonholes are on. This means the left side for men and the right side for women. Except, increasingly, it means the left side for both men and women. I've even seen women with poppies pinned to their left lapel when they have an actual buttonhole in their right lapel. I've no idea why they'd do this, unless maybe they've seen so many male newsreaders and politicians that they think that poppies are always worn on the left regardless of the (admittedly, rather odd) buttonhole standards for clothing. Even the front page of the Royal British Legion site has a picture of a girl wearing a poppy on the left lapel.

I'm sure that if you were to ask the RBL where poppies should be worn, they'd come back with something along the lines of "wherever you like", which is fair enough. Still, that doesn't explain why so many women seem to like having it on the left rather than the right.

Another Great Unresolved Mystery of our time.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).