Thursday, May 13, 2010

Care to Join Me in Celebrating National Etiquette Week?

That's right, this is National Etiquette Week . . . and, yes, there apparently is a week for everything! In addition to being National Better Hearing & Speech Month and National Salad Month and National Salsa Month (I guess that's a double celebration if you're having a taco salad), May also includes the following week-long celebrations (this list is far from inclusive):
  • Bread Pudding Recipe Exchange Week (which proves fact is stranger than fiction)
  • National Wildflower Week
  • Salute to Mom's 35+ Week (I'm guessing only young looking 45ish moms participate in this)
  • National Safe Boating Week
  • Nursing / Tourism / Stay at Home Moms / Drinking Water / International Whistler's / etc. Week!
So, I have mixed feelings about National Etiquette Week because there are so many 'weeks' that there is little significance. And, mainly, having a designated week implies that etiquette will not be in the forefront of our lives the remaining 51 weeks. And what should one do if N.E.W. overlaps a special daily celebration? For instance, did you celebrate Robert's Rules of Order Day May 3 - I think that should fall during N.E.W. - after all Robert is all about politeness.

However, since this is the official week to celebrate Etiquette (that's right, with a capital E), I wanted to share a few thoughts. My etiquette credentials are from the Emily Post Institute and I have a soft spot for Emily. Although she passed away more than 40 years ago, her work lives on. Today the Emily Post Institute authors etiquette guides for children, adults, weddings, golf, and other aspects of modern life and you will breeze through every situation politely with the standard, blue etiquette book (now in its 17th edition . . . which says it all).

I love the poster below; it's a London Underground message from 1918 and really captures the essence of etiquette with the last sentence and the word selfish. It's so simple - etiquette is not being selfish. Putting the feelings or needs of others before your own - common courtesies sometimes, bigger sacrifices other times. Regardless, the message hasn't changed - don't be selfish!
I like these transport posters because being in crowded public spaces often brings out the rudester in us all . . . as this 1944 poster reveals:

And there's something oddly reassuring when you discover that rude behavior isn't new - rude people are like the poor, always with us. The goal for us, therefore, is to rise above the unmannered fray and keep our polite cool in even the most trying times!

So that's my message about etiquette this week. You all know the rules and we can talk about nuances another day. For now, enjoy these etiquette words of wisdom from the witty, pithy, clever Miss Manners.

Accepting discomfort cheerfully is the basic rule of picnic behavior. If one is unalterably opposed to being bitten, sunburnt, and having sand mixed with one's food, one should not go picnicking.

In response to a query regarding the proper way to address wedding gifts:
The custom is to address all prewedding presents to the bride-to-be, and those sent after the marriage to the couple. Nowadays some people may take offense at this, as a sign of inequality. Nowadays some people will take offense at anything. However, sending people presents goes a long way toward mitigating any offense.

People who boast that they "never apologize, never explain" or who claim that "love is never having to say you're sorry" ought to be ashamed of themselves and admit it and ask forgiveness.


  1. Leah-

    I just love these old subway posters! It is so true about rude (or at least oblivious) people. I guess they've always been around. I even remember being flabbergasted as a child when I saw anybody with a lack of common courtesy. I don't know if it was the way I was raised, or just an innate sense of fairness. Thank you for this interesting post!


  2. I love this post! I seem to spend a lot of time lately wondering what happened to manners and common courtesy! Is it generational? My husband and I are always saying that we were raised to say please and thank you and address our elders as Mr. Mrs. or Miss. Ah well, I guess according to those posters, this lack of manners has always existed!



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