Debate: As Debrett's gives the go-ahead to eating with your fingers, are table manners no longer relevant?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

Debrett's has been been the go-to guide for etiquette since the first guide was published in the mid-1900s. But standards might be slipping. Today it was reported Debrett's has given the go-ahead to eating with one's fingers; traditionally a sign of ill-breeding. The manners' masters said that silverware can now be thrown aside and hands used instead - since table manners isn't just about sticking to an "outdated" code of conduct.

So should we all tuck-in gleefully, or is it important to know your napkins from your knees?

Case against: socially crucial

In the modern home, slobbiness rules. Pizzas on laps, puddings for breakfast - nothing seems beyond the pale. This is turning out a generation of young people who are, quite simply, death to any dignified occasion. And this is more than an aesthetic problem. There will come a time in their lives when decorum is important - on a date, with a boss, in the Fat Duck - and then the slurping will come back to haunt them.

Case For: who cares?

There is a good rule of thumb when it comes to deciding whether etiquette advice is still relevant: who cares? The ultimate aim of good manners, after all, must surely be to put others at their ease; to be considerate, in other words. When the etiquette tradition in question becomes completely divorced from that original purpose, the sensible thing is clearly to discard it. If you let your elbows rest on the table at a modern dinner party, your host is unlikely to be horrified. The truth is, they probably wouldn't even notice.


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