I was recently at the library, where I picked up the latest edition of Emily Post’s “Etiquette: Manners for a New World.” Authors Peggy, Anna and Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning all contributed.
This 18th edition features the great-great-grandchildren of Emily Post as they offer us rules and guidelines in today’s world of cell phones and computers, among other modern developments. The book is massive, implying there is much to say about etiquette in our society.
Many of the manners rules are things most of us were raised knowing and being corrected for when we didn’t do them.
Things such as “don’t slurp your straw or blow bubbles in your drink,” seem obvious and made me wonder who reads that and says, “Oh my, I didn’t know that.”
Other rules, such as the section about which foods to eat with fingers and which ones require a fork, made me chuckle. The book says fried chicken can be eaten with fingers or a fork, and specifies that in the South, “fingers are the norm.”
Who in the world eats fried chicken with a fork?
The section about making conversation during dinner was also amusing. Among the tips, “Stay clear of offensive language and gross or sensitive topics” and “Don’t try to talk and eat at the same time.” Good advice.
The section on driving and etiquette really cracked me up. I would like to have copies of this to hand out to drivers every day.
In fact, maybe the DMV can distribute this chapter of the book to drivers. Or better yet, make it part of the driving test.
The traveling section, especially the part about etiquette when flying, also made me laugh. Airlines should pass out this chapter to passengers.
I would’ve added a few things: don’t eat stinky, greasy fast food on an airplane; don’t clip fingernails; apply deodorant before flying; and don’t watch inappropriate movies or listen to inappropriate music.
I have witnessed all of these things firsthand.
I’ve known lots of people who could benefit from the chapter on communication. Everything from how to be a good conversationalist to conversation “stoppers.”
The chapter on notes and letters is probably most helpful to young people, many of whom have never written a thank-you note, or haven’t done so since childhood.
This could be helpful if the art of actually writing returns, but who believes that’s going to happen?
There are chapters on the workplace, offering everything we will ever need to know (and then some) about acting in a work environment.
There are also plenty of examples of what to do when co-workers or a boss do unexpected things.
Some guidelines are sort of silly. For example, to avoid being fired, refrain from cursing, excessively gossiping or drinking on the job. Good tips.
There is much of information about weddings. Everything from guidelines to gift giving and receiving, invitations and even wedding ceremonies of several types of religions.
After reading much of this enormous book, I did wonder how many of those rules I taught my own children. Surely only a fraction.
Just for fun, I may give them all a little quiz this holiday season. And maybe I will set a formal table and see who knows which fork to use and what the bread plate is for.
Miss Manners would surely be proud.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.