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Manners

  • Lack of education is an extraordinary handicap when one is being offensive.

  • We cough because we can't help it, but others do it on purpose.

  • There is no harm in eating corn off the cob; the impoliteness consists in looking at the person who is doing it.

  • Civilization will cease without civility.

    • Helen Hayes,
    • with Marion Glasserow Gladney, Loving Life ()
  • Private problems don't constitute an excuse for bad manners.

  • Manners indeed are like the cypher in arithmetic — they may not be much in themselves, but they are capable of adding a great deal to the value of everything else.

  • Good manners are not bred in moments, but in years.

  • ... little every-day courtesies are called the small change of life; but we should be badly off in trade if we had no small change, and must always deal with twenty-dollar bills; while the small change mounts up to the great sum in a lifetime.

  • Never take a woman's arm unless you are in an advanced state of decrepitude. If she wishes to take yours, she will do so.

  • Throaty hawkings and nasal trumpetings are pardonable only when the performer is alone.

  • Never de-louse, nor pursue any other type of personal small-game hunting in public, either upon one's own person or another's.

  • He believed me all the time, simply because I was rude. Everybody suspects an eager desire to curry favor, but rudeness, for some reason, is always accepted as a guarantee of good faith.

  • Please don't think me negligent or rude. I am both, in effect, of course, but please don't think me either.

  • You can't be truly rude until you understand good manners.

  • The aristocrat, when he wants to, has very good manners. The Scottish upper classes, in particular, have that shell-shocked look that probably comes from banging their heads on low beams leaping to their feet whenever a woman comes into the room. Aristocrats are also deeply male chauvinist, and ... on the whole they tend to be reactionary.

  • ... what we need in the world is manners ... I think that if, instead of preaching brotherly love, we preached good manners, we might get a little further. It sounds less righteous and more practical.

  • Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.

  • Morals refine manners, as manners refine morals.

  • ... it is safer to judge of people by their conduct to others than by their manners towards ourselves ...

  • Politeness, however, acts the lady's maid to our thoughts; and they are washed, dressed, curled, rouged, and perfumed, before they are presented to the public ...

  • Grandmother was rather severe with us ... Inappropriate conduct was bad manners, bad manners were bad morals, and bad morals led to bad manners, and there you were, ringed with fire, and no way out.

  • Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness.

  • Charming villains have always had a decided social advantage over well-meaning people who chew with their mouths open.

  • In point of fact, we are all born rude. No infant has ever appeared yet with the grace to understand how inconsiderate it is to disturb others in the middle of the night.

  • The idea that people can behave naturally, without resorting to an artificial code tacitly agreed upon by their society, is as silly as the idea that they can communicate by a spoken language without commonly accepted semantic and grammatical rules.

  • Like language, a code of manners can be used with more or less skill, for laudable or for evil purposes, to express a great variety of ideas and emotions. In itself, it carries no moral value, but ignorance in use of this tool is not a sign of virtue.

  • The challenge of manners is not so much to be nice to someone whose favor and/or person you covet (although more people need to be reminded of that necessity than one would suppose) as to be exposed to the bad manners of others without imitating them.

  • Miss Manners refuses to allow society to seek its own level. Having peered through her lorgnette into the abyss, she can guess how low that level will be.

  • Yes, etiquette is hypocritical. Yes, it does inhibit children — if you're lucky. But the idea that it's elitist and irrelevant is like saying language is elitist and irrelevant.

    • Judith Martin,
    • in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity ()
  • Etiquette enables you to resolve conflict without just trading insults. Without etiquette, the irritations in modern life are so abrasive that you see people turning to the law to regulate everyday behavior. This frightens me; it's a major inroad on our basic freedoms.

    • Judith Martin,
    • in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity ()
  • ... it's no longer socially acceptable to make bigoted statements and racist remarks. Some people are having an awful time with that: 'I didn't know anybody would be offended!' Well, where have you been? I remember when people got away with it and they don't anymore. That's fabulous.

    • Judith Martin,
    • in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity ()
  • The etiquette of intimacy is very different from the etiquette of formality, but manners are not just something to show off to the outside world. If you offend the head waiter, you can always go to another restaurant. If you offend the person you live with, it's very cumbersome to switch to a different family.

    • Judith Martin,
    • in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity ()
  • Those on the search for a good shock have been trying to undo the greatest etiquette advance of our age, the condemnation of bigotry. When the nostalgic moan about the decline of etiquette, Miss Manners turns contrary and points out that it is only recently that frank expressions of prejudice have become socially unacceptable. That lascivious and bigoted statements no longer pass uncensured is enormous progress. To be sure, there are people who cannot spell and who therefore equate censureship with censorship. They do not understand that an etiquette rule is not the same as a law and that disapproval and the desire to keep rude people at a distance are not the same as throwing them in jail.

  • Etiquette is about all of human social behavior. Behavior is regulated by law when etiquette breaks down or when the stakes are high — violations of life, limb, property and so on. Barring that, etiquette is a little social contract we make that we will restrain some of our more provocative impulses in return for living more or less harmoniously in a community.

  • The whole country wants civility. Why don't we have it? It doesn't cost anything. No federal funding, no legislation is involved. One answer is the unwillingness to restrain oneself. Everybody wants other people to be polite to them, but they want the freedom of not having to be polite to others.

  • Originality is not everything. The words hosts most want to hear when the evening is over are 'Thank you, I had a wonderful time' and 'Good night.'

  • ... rudeness to Mrs. Dosely was like dropping a pat of butter on to a hot plate — it slid and melted away.

  • Good general-purpose manners nowadays may be said to consist in knowing how much you can get away with.

  • I don't approve the informality in the world today, Mr. James. It's made strangers of us all.

  • To be polite to everybody except the people they love most is a nervous affectation that afflicts many families ... when they come home, they take off their smiles and soft words, and sit about, spiritually in their underwear. This isn't pretty.

  • Good manners are very important, particularly in the morning.

  • A party is a slightly artificial event where one learns the rudiments of human behavior at its most admirable: speaking when spoken to, looking somebody in the eye, shaking hands and being friendly under duress.

  • One should never be rude except on purpose.

  • Manners, really good ones, make it possible to live with almost anyone, gracefully and pleasantly ...

    • Margaret Mead,
    • 1926, in Margaret M. Caffrey and Patricia A. Francis, eds., To Cherish the Life of the World: Selected Letters of Margaret Mead ()
  • With her hands lying palms upward in her lap, she was leaning back with that calm which good breeding brings only to those who believe absolutely in its supremacy.

  • Good manners are the technique of expressing consideration for the feelings of others.

  • Forget love. Try good manners.

  • They bit their underlips tightly as old people do in carrying out acts of rudeness.

  • Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking is your business. Thinking is not etiquette.

  • It must always be borne in mind that the assumption of woman's social superiority lies at the root of these rules of conduct.

  • The well-mannered man never puts out his hand in greeting until a lady extends hers. This is a test of good breeding that is constantly applied. ... The first move in the direction of cordiality must come from the lady, the whole code of behaviour being based on the assumption that she is the social superior.

  • Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go.

  • Opening the door is a political act. The door-opening ceremony represents a non-obtrusive measure of authority. The hand that holds the door-knob rules the world.

  • It's a fact that it is much more comfortable to be in the position of the person who has been offended than to be the unfortunate cause of it.

  • ... there is nothing so sad as lack of fine manners in a gentleman, except the lack of them in a lady.

  • ... it is bad manners to contradict a guest. You must never insult people in your own house — always go to theirs.

  • ... manners are the core of civilization.

  • Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.

  • ... she was barely civil to them, and evidently better pleased to say 'goodbye,' than 'how do you do.'

  • Another resource for escaping blame is that of explaining that the children 'learn these things at school.' Presumably they do not mean from the teachers. It is 'from the other children,' who seem to be a most injurious class of society. It is their influence which makes our children so rude and so ungrammatical; and, strangely enough, though these other children never dine with our children, so subtle and far-reaching is their baleful influence that our children's defective manners at the table are directly traceable to the same evil source.

  • ... manners and morals are twin shoots from the same root.

  • ... in love, gallantry is necessary. Even when the first wild desire is gone, especially then, there is an inherent need for good manners and consideration, for the putting forth of effort. Two courteous and civilized human beings out of the loneliness of their souls owe that to each other.

  • You talk to people who serve you the food the same way you talk to the people you eat the food with. You talk to people who work for you the same way you talk to the people you work for. It's a one-size-fits-all proposition.

  • Whistling, humming, singing at the table may be an indication of cheerfulness, but it is also one of thoughtlessness, and hence is distinctly ill-mannered.

  • More tears have been shed over men's lack of manners than their lack of morals.

  • Good manners will often take people where neither money nor education will take them.

  • When you see persons slip down on the ice, do not laugh at them. ... It is more feminine on witnessing such a sight, to utter an involuntary scream than a shout of laughter.

  • Animals are murdered to produce meat; vegetables are torn up, peeled, and chopped; most of what we eat is treated with fire; and chewing is designed remorselessly to finish what killing and cooking began. People naturally prefer that none of this should happen to them. Behind every rule of table etiquette lurks the determination of each person present to be a diner, not a dish.

  • Eating is aggressive by nature, and the implements required for it could quickly become weapons; table manners are, most basically, a system of taboos designed to ensure that violence remains out of the question.

  • Well, next thing she took a fit about was gettin' Guffey to eat with his fork. Seems where she'd come from they didn't eat off their knives — not even pie.

  • ... manners are about making other people reasonably comfortable. If etiquette is, in part, about how to eat that artichoke, manners is knowing not to serve them if you suspect that someone at supper is going to be uncomfortable about being confronted with one.

  • Much of good manners is about knowing when to pretend that what's happening isn't happening.

  • Good behavior is everybody's business, and good taste can be everyone's goal.

  • A code of behavior is an inevitable part of life in any community, and if we hadn't inherited ours, we should have had to invent one.

  • Any change in customs ... takes generations to accomplish, and must come about by general consent. Even a superficial study of sociology shows the futility of past efforts to make a lasting change in manners by an act of will or authority.

  • Unfortunately civility is hard to codify or legislate, but you know it when you see it. It's possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

  • You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners.

    • Lillian Gish,
    • in Reader's Digest eds., Quotable Quotes ()
  • England is the only civilised country in the world where it is etiquette to fall on the food like a wolf the moment it is served. Elsewhere it is comme il faut to wait until everybody has helped himself to everything and until everything on everybody's plate is stone cold.

  • Custom is a mutable thing; yet we readily recognize the permanence of certain social values. Graciousness and courtesy are never old-fashioned.


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  • Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

  • Don't keep prompt guests waiting for tardy ones. Wait ten minutes for a man and fifteen for a woman or a couple, and then go in to dinner. If the persons late are socially important, they know better. If unavoidably detained they will prefer that there is no delay on their account.

  • Common courtesy ... isn't.

  • It's a rare thing, graciousness. The shape of it can be acquired, but not, I think, the substance.

  • There is nothing that more obviously separates the powerful from the powerless than graciousness.

    • Liz Smith,
    • in Sherry Suib Cohen, Tender Power ()
  • It is not the correct thing to take offence if a neighbor states civilly that he would prefer your children should cease from breaking his windows.

  • Good manners — the longer I live the more convinced I am of it — are a priceless insurance against failure and loneliness. And anyone can have them.

  • Good manners spring from just one thing — kind impulses.

  • Good manners have much to do with the emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.

  • Only a great fool or a great genius is likely to flout all social grace with impunity, and neither one, doing so, makes the most comfortable companion.

  • One face to the world, another at home makes for misery.

  • Politeness forbids any display of resentment. The polished surface throws back the arrow.

  • It is a mark of a superior mind to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

  • Sometimes one sees people butter their slices of bread with long, slow, admiring strokes in the same way in which Tom Sawyer's friends whitewashed the fence. Never butter an entire slice of bread at one time ...

    • Mary E. Clark,
    • in Mary E. Clark and Margery Closey Quigley, Etiquette Every Child Should Know ()
  • Must it be said that napkins are laid across the lap and never tucked under the chin, bib fashion? If one has to wear a bib, he should not accept invitations to dine away from home.

  • 'The land of the free' is now the land of the free to be rude ...

  • Courtesy should begin at home, like charity, but neither should end there.

  • Truly good manners are invisible: they ease the way for others, without drawing attention to themselves.

  • [On rudeness:] Falling silent should be cultivated, the way the woods fall silent in the snow. Messages you can't send any other way can be heard.

  • Let's all commit ourselves to the basic civility of minding our own business. Failing that, let's go back to a time when we were nasty and judgmental, but only behind one another's backs.

  • Whether you're wrong or whether you're right, it's always better to be polite ...

    • Dorothy L. Sayers,
    • "The Poisoned Dow '08," Dorothy L. Sayers: The Complete Stories ()