Mrs. Price Post (popularly known as Emily Post) spent
much of her adult life helping people learn to live in harmony with one another. That is what etiquette really is.
It is knowing the rules and being able to apply them appropriately with concern for the other person. A simple way of
putting it is “We do the right thing for the right reason”. The theme of our companion website, Lady
Personified, is: Learn to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. This recognizes that there
are circumstances that impact what is right in a current situation. In order to be able to do this, we must first know the
rules, assess the situation and do the right thing. Therefore, we don’t bend the rules we apply them correctly.
Therefore, we don’t bend the rules we apply them correctly.
The following definitions from Webster (1962) show the progress of these terms. It could be argued that they are all
the same thing varying only in degree.
• Etiquette: from the French meaning
a “ticket” or “label”. The forms, manners and ceremonies established by convention as acceptable.
(It just isn’t done.)
• Manners: ways of social behavior especially
with reference to polite convention.
Polite: Polished, cultured, refined.
Rules: fixed principles that determine conduct; habit custom
usual practice established by usage. Such usage as by common consent and long established uniform practice has taken
on the force of law.
• Laws: the rules of conduct established and enforced by the government authority
the ceremonial forms and courtesies that are established as proper and correct courtesies that are established as proper and
correct in official interaction between heads of state. (Thus Protocol is etiquette on an international scale.)
It is interesting to see Emily Post’s description of the word “etiquette”
in her own words from Etiquette
“The Blue Book of Social Usage” by Emily Post (1928 edition).
To the French we owe the
word etiquette, and, according to one of the many legends on the subject, it is amusing to discover its origin in the commonplace
familiar warning—“Keep off the grass!” One story, which is as good as any other, runs as follows:
It happened in the reign of a great French King, when certain magnificent gardens were being laid out, that the master gardener,
an old Scotsman, was sorely tried because his newly seeded lawns were continually trampled upon. To keep trespassers
off, he put up warning signs or “tickets”---etiquettes—on which was indicated the path along which to pass.
But the courtiers paid no attention to these directions and so that the determined Scot complained to the King in such a convincing
manner that His Majesty issued an edict commanding everyone at Court to “keep within the etiquettes.” Gradually,
the term came to cover all the rules for correct demeanor and deportment in court circles; and thus through the centuries
it has grown into use to describe the convention sanctioned for the purpose of smoothing personal contacts and developing
tact and good manners in social interaction.
The following bullet points used for emphasis are taken from
the first edition of Emily Post's Blue Book of Social Usage (published in 1922).
- 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…
must, if it is to be of more than trifling use, include ethics as well as manners.
- Certainly what one is, is of far greater importance than what one appears
ingredient that is often over looked is that to apply the rules properly in every case, requires work to understand the situation
and the people in the situation. This takes real work! Just to know the rules and use them regardless of the situation
or with disregard to those who might be hurt by the strict adherence to the rules….IS NOT ETIQUETTE! It is arrogance
For example, if
you are sitting at a table and the person next to you has mistakenly taken your bread and butter plate or your glass or your
napkin, you must determine the most unobtrusive and graceful way to handle the situation…even if this calls upon you
to look like the mistaken one. Your role as a Lady is to figure it out, take the lead and move on with grace. However,
as you see, one must know the rules in order to apply them. They are not complicated nor are they difficult to learn.
It is well worth the effort.