The Exception Proves the Rule


Set of Six Softly-Faceted Footed Wine Glasses with Hand-Etched Botanical Decoration (LEO Design)


We've all heard the aphorism, "The exception proves the rule."  We think we know what it means.  In fact, we probably do know what it means.  But seldom do we take the deep dive—to wrestle with the verbiage—and determine whether the phrase makes logical sense as written.

British "lexicographial genius," Henry Watson Fowler, outlines five possible approaches to understanding the phrase in his classic tome, Modern English Usage (1926).  I won't trouble you with his complete analysis.  But it basically boils-down to: only when there are exceptions, can we know that there exists a rule.  When there are no alternative choices (that is, no possible exceptions), the remaining invariability (that is, no options) precludes the need for an established rule.  Or something like that.

Allow me a little intellectual leniency, when I say that, while I do not usually buy floral-engraved glassware, I happen to like this set of glasses (shown above).  Most of the time, such glassware seems to me "overdone" or, possibly, "old ladyish."  It's true, most glassware (especially in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries) was purchased by women; women were largely responsible for decorating most homes.  It made sense for glass makers to appeal to a woman's taste—if they wanted to make sales.  Additionally, the old school hallmark of glass-making handwork was the amount and quality of hand-etched decoration, performed by skilled craftsmen on spinning wheels.  More decoration = more skillful craftsmanship.

I like these glasses, principally, because of their shape.  Footed wine glasses seem so much more chic to me than long stems.  More casual.  Less snobbish.  I like when people think of wine as a relaxed, everyday part of a good meal—not a precious specimen to be exalted like a rare museum piece.  I also like the softly-faceted walls of these glasses which give a handsome, linear dimension to the pieces.  Lastly, while the engraving is fairly heavy, it is well done.  The designers even applied etched decoration to the foot of the glass!  To learn more about these glasses, please click o the photo above.


Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well!  Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (

We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques ( or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (

Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only).  917-446-4248