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For Miss Manners fans

via jenk, a really interesting interview with Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners), in which she discusses the historical origins of American manners:

http://www.neh.gov/news/humanities/2005-01/civility.html

Amusing excerpt:
My column has been running in the Japan Times forever, but I don't get mail from them. I asked once, in Japan, why. They said, well, it would be rude to ask me questions.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
blue_sky_48220
Aug. 22nd, 2006 01:24 am (UTC)
That was engaging. Thanks for posting the link!
cha
Aug. 22nd, 2006 01:27 am (UTC)
my husband asks a lot of questions, he's a curious guy, and my grandmother thought he was being pretty obnoxiuos! she's british! :) weird how cultures can be so different... well, not weird... but weird that it doesn't occur to me more often that it's quite natural... (did that make sense?)
submarine_bells
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
She seems to have a very, um, vivid imagination when it comes to the origin and history of American manners. FWIW, I'm of English origin, with no history of or connection with African cultures at all, but in my culture it is quite normal for children to address adult "friends of the family" as Aunt and Uncle.

A rather interesting discussion thread on alt.poly recently was comparing Australian and American manners, particularly with respect to such things as tipping and interacting with taxi drivers and so forth. To my eye, such comparisons make it pretty clear that many aspects of American manners are not based on egalitarianism, despite what Ms Martin may have to say about it.

FWIW, I have found some of the most vocal proponents of Ms Martin's writings to have the poorest manners (by my standards) of folk in my extended social circle. I find that interesting.
firecat
Aug. 22nd, 2006 07:24 am (UTC)
I consider myself a fan of Miss Manners, and I hope I'm not included in the poor manners group. But if so I would be genuinely curious what behavior has come across poorly to you.
submarine_bells
Aug. 22nd, 2006 07:32 am (UTC)
I'm referring to a few folk who tend to be very vocal about The Wonderfulness Of Miss Manners on alt.poly (and other newsgroups) - much burbling about "what would Miss Manners do?" and "Miss Manners wouldn't approve of that" and so forth, for example. You don't tend to do that so much, as far as I recall. This same several folk also tend to be the first to jump on folk with whom they disagree, with "cleverly" snarky bitchiness or dismissively snide remarks. I doubt that "Miss Manners" would approve of that sort of thing either, but somehow they never seem to consider that terribly important. *sigh*

I've never had any problems with your manners, FWIW. I'd much rather hear about your concepts of good manners than those of "Miss Manners" and her more vocal enthusiasts. I have more respect for your concept of courtesy since you actually seem to adhere to it consistently yourself. :-)
firecat
Aug. 22nd, 2006 08:08 am (UTC)
Thanks for reassuring me :)

I've talked about Miss Manners on alt.poly but not recently AFAICR.

Miss Manners does use a cleverly snarky tone in her column (for example: "With your lack of success in diagnosing the lady's emotional state, Miss Manners is surprised that you are now making medical pronouncements." Perhaps that's what the folks on alt.poly are imitating. I don't know what that means for whether MM considers it appropriate for other occasions.

Setting aside the snarky tone of her replies, I think her views on manners make a lot of sense. She's very good at using the concept of manners to discourage behavior that I consider boundary-violating.
bastette_joyce
Aug. 23rd, 2006 06:37 am (UTC)
So, then, what are manners *for*??
**Big cheer!!**

It often boggles my mind that the people who seem most concerned with good manners think nothing of being mean to others - as long as they're witty about it, of course!

As far as I'm concerned, good manners are all about helping social relationships go smoothly, and a big component of that is sparing other people's feelings whenever possible. So when I know that a certain person believes very strongly in being polite, I am always quite taken aback if I discover that that person likes to make nasty comments, or thinks it's funny when somebody else does. This is not just hypocritical, it's downright confusing!

If you want to be a meanie, then don't pretend to be polite. Revel in your rudeness! At least that way, I'll see you coming.
tedesson
Aug. 22nd, 2006 10:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not an expert, but I seem to recall hearing Chinese people using Aunt and Uncle (as well as "Big Brother", "Big Sister" or some variant) as honorifics as well.

I did like the article though. Especially the ending gentlemen have to act like gentlemen to be considered such.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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