The Importance of Proper Manners

By Haley Page (Correspondent)

Many believe that “manners are an important part of life, and can impact someone’s impression of another person, right from the get-go,” says Norton high schooler Anna Eng.

She said that she is often reprimanded to “mind her Ps and Qs” by her parents.

“I believe that manners like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’, and giving people personal space…is important, but having multiple forks, knives, spoons, etc. out at a time is something that… is useless in my opinion,” she added.

Tamar Adler, a writer raised by “a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched,” says he was forced as a child to mind his manners to the extreme, and that he was always interested in manner books. This “invested (him) in the crusade” to “mind (his) manners”.

Does Adler’s father have the right idea in enforcing napkins in laps, keep forks in the left hand, keeping elbows off the table or eating soup “correctly”?

“In the democratic present, perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good”, said Adler.

Adler said, “Many decrees for how (or how not) to do things — to use snail tongs and fish knives, finger bowls and consommé cups and other formalities of fine dining — seem built to keep interlopers out.”

For example, forks were switched from the left hand (before forks in the left hand were considered good manners) to the right hand.

Once everyone knew this and was using forks in their right hand, it was switched and forks were expected to be held fast in the left hand, Adler continues.

Lena Katz, a 9th grader at Sharon High School, says that the only time she has ever seen fancy settings… for a formal dinner was in movies and plays at school. “I think manners are extremely important, especially the niceties of a conversation, and that manners should be standards that are upheld as a society”.

Adler added that Brunetto Latini, a poet, says that good manners should always be there, even when no one else is.

So what is “true courtesy” and “good manners”? Does Queen Victoria have the right idea when, at a state dinner, she lifted up her finger bowl (a small bowl filled with water used to wash fingers during a meal) and drank from it: “She had to. Her guest of honor, the Shah of Persia, had done it first,” said Miss Manners.

Brooke Janson, a Sharon High School student, says we don’t practice our manners as often as we should, instead of paying attention to others, we hide behind our phones: “…I think body language is important to pay attention to, you can show courtesy by responding to the situation.”

Social Business and Graces Inc. on their website said “Knowing when, what, how and why in social graces is key in today’s business and social arena.”

Adler disagreed, “True courtesy will instinctively check faddish manners at the door in the interest of kindness”.

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