Silly Question: Buttoning up a lady's costume

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The Independent Culture
SOAP bubbles and gender differences in buttoning habits have both been explained by erudite readers. Last week, Miss S Al-Benna asked why female garments button the opposite way to male ones.

Ms C Sangster replies: 'Until recently, rich women were dressed by a lady-in-waiting. Since the dresser would be facing the woman and would almost certainly be right-handed, the buttons are sewn on the opposite side to men's to enable the dresser to do them up easily.'

A similar explanation comes from the Rev David Cooke, who adds: 'Given that a lady's buttons are designed to be fastened or unfastened by someone else, other quite improper explanations might spring to mind.'

Betty Roe, however, implies that it is women who do up men's shirt buttons. She writes: 'the buttons on men's shirts are too small for their clumsy fingers, but being mal a droit is preferable to being mal a gauche.'

Staying with buttons we recently asked why gentlemen leave the bottom ones of their waistcoats undone. Peter Rado writes: 'My father used to tell me that he left the bottom button of his waistcoat undone because it used to be a secret sign that was used by Girondists to identify each other', though he thinks he might have meant Jacobins. This raises the question of what female Girondistes or Jacobinettes left undone.

Last week we gave some not totally convincing answers to why bubbles are always white, whatever the colour of the soap. Six-year-old Fergus Brady has written to put us right: 'It is because the foaming agent does not absorb the colouring. I know because I asked my mummy two years ago.'

We have a varied batch of questions this week. Paul Niblett asks how an insect resisted all his attempts to blow it from the top edge of his car window. 'What in heck holds a greenfly in place when a force 10 gale blows upon it?'

Also with motoring in mind, Geoffrey Walker asks: 'Why does the back of a car go faster than the front?'

Peter Godfrey asks why animals do not have green fur; Jack Muirhead wants to know why bubbles begin at the bottom of a glass of tonic water; and Paul Juniper inquires why excited Britons go 'head over heels', while Germans in a similar state go 'Hals uber Kopf' (neck over head).

Your answers, and more silly questions please, to: Silly Question, the Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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