Posts Tagged ‘History of Manners and Etiquette’

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care: —
Of whom you speak — to whom you speak,
And how — and when — and where.”
–from Little House on the Prairie

Have you ever become upset or offended by someone’s lack of manners? Recently my blogging buddy Delicacies http://delicacies.wordpress.com and I have. You can check out her etiquette story here: http://delicacies.wordpress.com/2009/07/20/rachael-ray-martha-stewart-and-my-niece-l/. So this started me thinking — how do we know what we know when it comes to manners and etiquette? My first thought was that it starts with “home training.” We begin our manners and etiquette education at home. We are first taught by our parents/guardians. Then we are taught more lessons when we enter school, and later on in the workforce. We must know the proper manners and etiquette for a variety of life situations (such as parties, traveling, weddings, letter writing, personal hygiene, etc.), as well as visiting someone’s home. There is social etiquette and business etiquette. Now that we have cell phones, computers and the internet, there are even more etiquette lessons to learn. Manners and etiquette also vary based on cultures. It seems manners and etiquette is a life-long learning thing. So this got me thinking…

How did this manners and etiquette thing begin? What’s the difference between manners and etiquette? Who makes up the rules?

The first known book on appropriate behavior was a guide that Ptah-hotep, a government official in Egypt in 2500 B.C., wrote for his son. Several Greeks and Romans wrote behavior guides, including Aristotle, Horace, Cicero, and Plutarch. In thirteenth-century Europe, the chivalric code established precisely and minutely the proper behavior for knights regarding the Christian church, their country, and the treatment of women. During the reign of Louis XIV (1638–1715) in France, the term “etiquette” came into use. Based on the French word “ticket,” which denoted the proper paths for nobility to follow in the gardens of the palace of Versailles, the rules of etiquette came to provide a daily, very precise list of functions related to times, places, and proper dress and behavior. Thus, proper etiquette came to be associated with the upper classes and those trying to emulate their behavior.

Nevertheless, proper manners were a concern even of leaders in the more democratic society of eighteenth-century America. At age fourteen, George Washington transcribed his own “Rules of Civility.” William Penn published collections of maxims on personal and social conduct. Benjamin Franklin’s very popular Poor Richard’s Almanac was full of comments on proper behavior. During the nineteenth century, hundreds of books on etiquette were published in the United States. These were designed for the common person and schoolchildren as well as the upper classes. One of the most popular, which has survived to the twenty-first century, is the Youth’s Educator for Home and Society, published in 1896, which covered a wide variety of situations, including the usual—parties, traveling, weddings, parents and children, letter writing, and personal hygiene—but also, cycling.

As society has changed, so have rules for proper behavior. After World War I (1914–1918), society became more open as roles of women began to change. Many believed that proper manners would become less important. In 1922, Emily Post published the most popular book on etiquette for society, business, politics, and home and family. Her book became the model for thousands of others since then. The sixteenth edition of Etiquette was published in 1997.

Post was succeeded by Amy Vanderbilt, who called herself a “journalist in the field of etiquette.” Her contribution to American good manners was “Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Guide to Etiquette.”

Soon other etiquette mavens followed, including Letitia Baldrige and Judith “Miss Manners” Martin, whose tongue-in-cheek columns led to the publishing of several books on etiquette, including “Miss Manners Guide To Domestic Tranquility”, which she published in 1999.

Today, Peggy Post, the great-grand-daughter of Emily Post has also thrown her hat into the good-manner ring. Her book is called “The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success.”

The field has also expanded beyond society manners. Today, many big businesses employ etiquette trainers whose job it is to teach good manners to executives. Etiquette trainers not only show business people how to dress and act–how to eat and converse in proper company–but they also train them how to become more successful in their companies and in the business world by providing lessons on such peripheral items as writing good business letters.

With the global society becoming much closer, executives having a background in societal and cultural differences have a much better chance not to offend as well as a greater success rate if they can demonstrate good etiquette skills. Hundreds of etiquette coaches exist in business today.

There are etiquette books and Web sites for nearly every subject imaginable. The arena of most concern appears to be the proper manners and etiquette for weddings. Other titles reflect changes in American society and cover everything: singles in the city, all sports (not just cycling), proper computer “netiquette” and use of cellphones, and multicultural situations. The coverage demonstrates the changes in society but also demonstrates the continued concern about how to behave appropriately. As many people believe, good manners may be dead, but certainly the curiosity and concern about rules of etiquette are alive and well.

Manners and Etiquette:

“Etiquette tells one which fork to use. Manners tell one what to do when your neighbor doesn’t.”

Good manners signal that you have respect for others, and that you will rise to every occasion with grace.

It is helpful to know some rules about how to behave in certain situations — if only because this makes life more comfortable for you and makes you more self-confident in social situations.

Manners and Etiquette go hand in hand, but are not the same. Etiquette is a set of rules dealing with exterior form. Manners are an expression of inner character. According to Emily Post, perhaps the most influential American writer on etiquette in the twentieth century, “manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.” Manners are common sense, a combination of generosity of spirit and specific know-how. Rules of etiquette are the guiding codes that enable us to practice manners.

Most commentators would agree with Emily Post and add that rather than being stiff, rigid rules, proper etiquette is meant to help people get along with each other and avoid conflict. Respect, kindness, and consideration form the basis of good manners and good citizen-ship. Etiquette becomes the language of manners. Rules of etiquette cover behavior in talking, acting, living, and moving; in other words, every type of interaction and every situation.

For the unlearned, etiquette lessons in business and social situations can be purchased via the internet or bought in a book store. There is no longer an excuse to not have “the ticket”. Etiquette today is based on treating everyone with the same degree of kindness and consideration, and it consists mostly of common sense and basic good manners.

Since there is so much to learn in this area I will do a blog post once a week on the subject of manners/etiquette.

“Don’t reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes – one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people.”
–Lillian Eichler Watson

Info obtained from: US History Encyclopedia: Manners and Etiquette



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