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20-40-60 Etiquette: Capping it off

Is a cap a hat? [Thinkstock photo]

Is a cap a hat? [Thinkstock photo]

QUESTION: Why do print and television reporters uses the wrong word for headwear? The “Make America Great Again” cap is always incorrectly referred to as a “hat.” It is a cap and not a hat. A cap has a long bill and no brim; a hat has a brim but no bill. Any thoughts?

CALLIE'S ANSWER: What?! I had no idea the difference, and I'm not quite sure I'm going to be able to switch from hat to cap. Whoops!

LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: I think in this case, people are using hat as a catchall term for a head covering. It's a little like using the word “jacket” to describe a sweatshirt being used as an outer jacket. When my kids say this, I try to explain the difference between the two types of clothing, but I understand what they're saying. That's your goal anyway in communication — to be understood. You are right in the technical definition of “cap” and “hat,” but you may not be able to get the world to change all at once.

HELEN'S ANSWER: A tip of the hat to our reader and to Chuck Ainsworth, our guest, for reminding us about the rules of hat and cap etiquette. Caps certainly fit close to the head and usually have a visor. They are used mostly for casual purposes. Hats are used for military, religious and ceremonial purposes. Hats shade sun and caps block the sun.

GUEST'S ANSWER: Chuck Ainsworth: local civic leader: I generally agree with your reader's thoughts on this subject. However, the term “hat” is a catchall for many varieties of both hats and caps.

While we are on this subject, it does seem that hat/cap etiquette has taken a vacation. There are many rules that govern how and when these should be worn by both men and women. Generally, a man may leave his hat on in public places, elevators or for medical or religious reasons. One should remove the hat/cap upon entering a home, church, office, restaurant, theater or when the national anthem is played or the U.S. flag is presented. Ladies may leave their hats on until 5 p.m. or unless it might block someone's view or is an inconvenience to other. If a lady is wearing a cap, men's rules apply.

I am sure that each of our fathers, or certainly grandfathers, shudder to think of how these courtesies, along with many others, have been forgotten or ignored. Courtesy is never out of style!

Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email