October 17th, 2008

Question about phrase usage

In the early 1980s, was the phrase "administrative assistant" in common use, or were administrative assistants still usually called "secretaries"?

The organization for which a person is an administrative assistant is a small non-profit, but the person speaking is with a scientific department in Boston, so would likely use the term most commonly used in higher education at the time.

Differences between US / Ontario School Systems

Setting: Modern US Everytown

Search Terms: "school canada us differences" "differences between ontario and american high school" (and variants of the same), "us school system"

I'm a Canadian writing American teenaged characters (in high school) trying to avoid any of the tiny shibboleths that would screw up the details. between the Canadian (specifically Ontario) and US school systems. It's the basic things that are worrying me, not the big things like standardized tests and the SATs (thus my using "shibboleths"), things a US student does all the time that we just don't do up here. Like call the grades "Freshman/Sophomore/Junior...".

I've already read the Wikipedia article on Education in the United States but I still want to be sure I've covered the bases. It doesn't tell me, for example, if the US school system (usually) has Spares (periods in which you do not have a scheduled class because you are in a later year), or how the classes are structured in a day (heck, my high school did four periods, split at lunch, that were static for the entire semester, but my brother's school across town would swap the order of afternoon classes based on cycles or something). These are the tiny things that happen every single day but get left out of big articles like the ones I'm finding.

Obviously no answer is complete (thanks to my completely arbitrary Everytown setting plopped of one of the world's largest countries) but if anyone wants to throw anything at me that occurs to them, I'd appreciate. Thanks in advance!

EDIT: A lot of great (and varied!) answers! Yes, obviously there's no such place as an "anytown USA" but I think from all these answers I can at least avoid some of my Canadianisms ("spare", as many of you have pointed out, is completely alien). Thanks again!

Stealing police uniforms.

Setting is a sort of classically modern fantasy world - no magic, but no internet either. Call it kind of 70's/80's technology. Obviously this does mean there's some wriggle room on what the procedures are like but I'd like to keep it close to real-life practice somewhere or other.

Any ideas on how my characters could plausibly get their hands on two or three police uniforms? They have limited time (I'd like them to have them within about three days of deciding they need them) but a lot of money at their disposal and a quite senior police detective on their side. However he is under a mild degree of suspicion and very scared of getting caught though (and I don't want him to get caught either, or it to seem like he should have been caught) - he won't want the authorities to think, "So, uniforms go missing from Detective X's precinct and next minute criminals dressed as policemen are  committing a rather high-profile crime! Hmm..." 

Googled - "stolen police uniform/s" "stole a police uniform." Came up with a case of people stealing uniforms from a dry cleaners, which is definitely a possibility, but I'm not quite sure even how you would go about doing that. The uniforms do need to fit, too, though they could probably spare enough time to make some basic alterations.

EDIT: Re some of the comments, yes  if they can do it without committing a crime, so much the better. Really I just want to clear this up as quickly and economically as possible ("The uniforms were in a bag on the chair, they'd got them from x by y means.")  I suppose a lot of my trouble is not really understanding where police officers get their uniforms from normally.  Wouldn't suppliers be cautious about selling to just anyone?
  • Current Mood: frustrated

Walking Stick Etiquette

This is, admittedly, a rather odd question, but it's a detail that has been bothering me for some time. I have a character who has a bum foot and needs to use a walking stick in order to get around. The novel is set in Regency England and I have searched such strings as "walking stick etiquette", "proper cane etiquette" and other variations on that theme as well as tried some 19th century etiquette handbooks on Google Books, all without finding the answer to my query.

So, given that my character uses his cane out of necessity and not as a foppish accessory, (and thus has it with him at all times as opposed to just when promenading) what would he do with it if he attended someone's dinner party? Dining chairs of the period did not have arms, as far as I know, and it would be rather awkward having it at table or on the floor by his feet. Would a servant take it and store it some place and then bring it to him at the end of the meal, or if he needed it?

Again, I realize this is a strange sort of question but any help or points in the right direction would be very much appreciated. Thanks in advance :)