So, certainly, a great deal of manners are simply class signifiers, but some of them also have utility in other situations. They sometimes not only signal class but also convey your degree of general approachability/sociability to another person.
Even the innocuous ones can have subtle effects. For example, putting your elbows on the table may naturally inch your body into a position in which you’re leaning in more toward the conversation, which in some situations can be a bad signal and seem overly eager or aggressive—of course in some situations the same gesture can convey a deep interest the discussion. Leaning back with one’s hands off the table can instead convey a respectable openness to discussion, or, in certain situations, disinterest. It all depends. I don’t think the rules of etiquette have to be hard and fast all the time. They’re better used as helpful reminders about how our subtle or even unconscious gestures contribute to a conversation.
> Really, what the average person would consider “good” table manners these days boils down to common sense: Chewing with your mouth open is, and always will be gauche. But the more specific etiquette practices — the rules for how to hold your utensils or scoop up your soup — are no longer uniform, and therefore, mistakes are less likely to be met with the same bougie judgement they would have been a century ago.
> Even in their original context of medieval venery, the terms were of the nature of kennings, intended as a mark of erudition of the gentlemen able to use them correctly rather than for practical communication.
> Lipton discovered that such collections are quite old, dating from the mid-15th century. These days teacher educators would probably curricularize this material as word-play, perhaps a motivating introduction to poetry. Along these lines, for example, Griffin recently invented 'a brace of orthodontists'. But in the 15th century the educative purpose was much more sober. Such lists were a valuable resource to provide a gentleman with the means of social acceptability and to spare him the embarrassment of some blunder at table---of referring, for example, to a bunch or flock of owls when the proper term is a parliament of owls. In such incidents, 'those who are wiser may have the laugh of you, and we who love you may be shamed', a quote from a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle in which a young man is being schooled in the proper terminology to avoid embarrassment (Lipton 1993: 1).