We’ve all, at some point, complained about someone else’s manners – or lack of! People who don’t say ‘thank you’ when you hold the door open for them, or who belch at the table seem to lack basic manners, but manners themselves have really changed over the decades and here are some customs that were once the height of politeness and would now be considered a little odd!
Whereas now we tend to argue with strangers on Twitter using sassy comebacks and rude insults, there was a time when these disagreements would be settled with swords or pistols. These could be caused by anything from cheating at a card game to insulting a lady. In 1800 it was the only honorable way that gentlemen could save face, and this came with a considerable list of etiquette rules to be followed. For example, if you were the one to start the fight, but you apologized first, the battle need not commence. Otherwise, it was literally pistons at dawn!
When you look back at old photos, it may seem as though everyone was having an awful time. No one is ever smiling, and they look serious in every shot. There are two potential reasons for this (outside of the fact that they could just have been a little grumpy!), one is that moving your face by smiling could make your photograph come out blurry and it wasn’t a case of just being able to take twenty selfies until there was one they liked. The other reason is that grins were seen to be very lower class and so the elite, who could afford photographs, chose a more neutral face over a smile.
Before the Renaissance, forks were seen as suspicious and effeminate and so were shunned instead for hands (which, let’s face it, are much easier to use!). Of course, when picking up food with your fingers, your hands are likely to get greasy, sticky and pretty gross, so what did you do? Well, you’d wipe them on the tablecloth of course! If you did that now, you would be kicked out of the restaurant for sure!
More than breakfast in bed
The Greeks were all about relaxing. In fact, when it came to dinner parties, the room would be full of beds so that they could recline while eating for ultimate comfort. They would be propped up against pillows to avoid choking and have small tables next to them for easy access to the food. These dinner parties were men-only affairs, except for a small selection of “working women.”
Don’t make a lady stand out
In the 1950s, it was etiquette for a man to not make a woman conspicuous in public. This meant that he wasn’t allowed to talk loudly or intimately with her or shout her name across a room. It was almost as if women were some strange secret, or the elephant in the room that we were supposed to pretend was not there.
As much as we complain that manners aren’t what they used to be, this shows that that is not always a bad thing – although eating dinner in bed sounds like something that should come back!