Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
[flagged] Etiquette is a bullshit code written by aristocrats (melmagazine.com)
18 points by paulpauper 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

Hah, it’s funny, I just had an opportunity to confirm the utility of manners on the subway this morning. There was a creepy guy staring at people, looking for god knows what kind of victim, but certainly set on causing trouble. The situation drove home that the old advice that it’s impolite to stare has, at times, at deeper sognificance and purpose than simple étiqueté. In this case staring, in combination with other signfifiers is one of the signs others pick up on web trying to determine whether or not you’re a stable human being. On the other side, staring at someone who is deranged or looking for victims can put you in a lot of danger as it’s essentially an open invitation for them to mess with you.

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.

The article was exhausting (unless you're into stuff like the history of table manners going back to the Victorian era) so I'll save you having to read it for the final paragraph which sums up the opinion nicely:

> 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.

Why is it trendy to use expletives these days? It's not big or clever.

It's not supposed to be clever, it's supposed to express a feeling or idea with fewer words. They're actually well used here, sparingly and purposefully. Both expletives are used once out of ~2,230 other words. And they describe the author's argument tersely and in an active voice.

It's an attempt to write an attention grabbing headline which has grown painfully cliched.

Not just that, second paragraph in drops the F word.

Using words like "bullshit" is rude in almost exactly the same way as putting your elbows on the table while eating. I think the idea is to position the author as transgressive and willing to critically examine mild social mores.

I have to admit I skimmed this article, but the aristocrats had a purpose for the rules and regulations. If you're at a very long table in a very long hall with 20 other people, it's difficult to see, much less hear or join in with the conversation of the other guests. Making a bunch of noise, getting in people's way, spilling things all over the table, mixing up whose drinking glass or knife this is, etc could cause annoying disruptions, not to mention made dining less gross.

Class is dead and buried especially in America, and this article was clearly written by one of its grave diggers.

Group nouns (eg "a murder of crows" or "a flobble of jelly") also started out as a differentiation between the aristocrats and uneducated masses:

> 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.


I first came across that Lipton citation through https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:List_of_English_terms_of_... , which quotes "Narrative and learning to teach: implications for teacher-education curriculum" saying:

> 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).

An amusing diversion apparently penned by an author not on the in.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact