Southerners have recognized rites of passage with shiny sliver items bedecked with the honoree's initials since the time of Sir Walter Scott. Monograms have graced everything from silver boxes to watches to teapots. And every bride's hope chest was filled with doilies, towels, sheets and shams sporting her soon-to-be initials.

Today we treasure these timeless talismans of a bygone era. Vintage linens sport monograms of relatives, passed. Silver teaspoons marked with a grandmother's name are handed down to namesake grandchildren. A mother's initial pen is cherished by a newly-aged daughter, who wears it with pride on her business suit lapel.

Such a Southern thing, this marking of items. And should you lack these handed down objects in your silver chest or linen press, never fear: estate sales and antiques shops abound with long-ago treasures.

A few guidelines to consider: Your own monogram belongs on stationary and new bath towels. Displaying those never used graduation gifts with your maiden-name monogram is okay too - assuming that everyone knows who you were.

Silver should be marked with a mother's or grandmother's initials. (A hint to charity shop buyers of pedigreed articles: just make sure the silver in question bears some initial belonging to a forebear.)

You have more leeway with linens. Almost any initial will do. One time-honored tradition is to search for letters that spell out your name, if it is short, or a holiday sentiment like J-O-Y, and display them together.

Whatever the item, however it is marked, whenever two or more letters are gathered (or a name), you can be sure the monogram is a Southern thing.

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