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Edgar Allan Poe's story “The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade” (link to full text) has this curious sentence. This is about Scheherazade volunteering to marry the king, despite knowing that the king would kill her on the morning after the wedding.

Accordingly, and although we do not find it to be leap-year, (which makes the sacrifice more meritorious,) she deputes her father, the grand vizier, to make an offer to the king of her hand.

I don't understand how leap years are relevant at all. What is the significance of leap years?

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Normally, the American practice was that a man asked a woman to marry him, not for the woman to ask the man. For a woman to ask was very forward and unfeminine of her.

There was a practice imported from Ireland that women could ask men to marry them in a leap year.

Scheherazade is not only asking the king to marry her, she is doing it when it might be regarded as a flaw in her character.

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  • Better link. I knew about this tradition, but didn't know it originated in Ireland - interesting! – Rand al'Thor Feb 23 at 6:14

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