Debate: Does etiquette matter any more?


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The Independent Online


We could learn a lot from Hyacinth Bucket

By William Hanson, author of The Bluffer's Guide to Etiquette @williamhanson

There seems to be a contagion of common that has swept the nation.  Deference is dead and self-respect is on life-support.  Anything that parvenus would think of as ‘posh’ is seemingly un-cool and to be positively avoided. The trend started by insecure restaurant owners of calling pudding ‘dessert’ has sadly now gripped pretty much everyone: including those who should know better. (Dessert is the fruit course, pudding is the pudding.) We also have people swarthily swigging beer from the bottle – the last time I drank from a bottle, I was eighteen months old: I have since managed to cope with a glass. 

What many would call ‘social climbing’ is seen as negative - and when done badly (let’s mention no Pippas), it can be pretty excruciating to watch. But social climbing should not be mistaken for, in my opinion, the desire to better yourself. After seeing my parents watch an episode of Keeping Up Appearances (I was five at the time) I became transfixed on the programme’s lead, Hyacinth Bucket. That perhaps explains a lot, I grant you, but although Mrs B was very try-hard, she did try. This must not be forgotten. She too came from a socially less fortunate background but with every moment of every waking breath she campaigned to improve her family’s prospects.  She was very self-aware and strived to carry herself with poise, gravitas and dignity.

Basic social skills and politesse are not taught in schools anymore - they are too focused on barraging pupils with exams. The parents and families don’t have the time or inclination to bother, either. If only people bothered to learn what the done thing was, they’d soon see that the rules and guidelines are there not just to annoy them, but to make their lives easier.  They should become second nature.  It’s not just about keeping up appearances. 

Etiquette should be flushed down the toilet (with the door open)

By Felicity Morse, Social Media Editor at the Independent @FelicityMorse

I have the social etiquette of a pig. A well-meaning one, but distinctly porcine all the same. I smoke, I slurp, I shovel my lunch and my laugh is a shrill cackle that would make the Wicked Witch of the West wince.

Prattle all you want about being posh but it’s got nothing to do with etiquette. I went to Cheltenham Ladies College (ooh err) and we were farting, chomping, swearing monsters. We used to grow out our leg hair and compare it reverently like it twas a sage’s beard. One day I was watching TV next to my friend Pippa (sorry, not of the Middletons) and I felt her phone vibrate through the sofa. As she burst into impish giggles I realised this was not the case. She had in fact done a resounding fart so vigorous it had reverberated through the whole couch.

Yet despite all this there are still some residual breaches of etiquette that not even CLC girls would put up with. Boarders were dismayed at how I referred to the loo as a 'toilet'. One girl said the very word 'made her sick'. Apparently confusing dinner and supper was not the done thing either.

I grew up in a house where the toilet doors are left open (shutting it makes it much harder to continue your conversation) and swearing, while originally banned, became increasingly necessary as we all turned into little terrors. It doesn’t bother me, although I do feel sorry for whoever sits next to me at work. I’m too loud. But who would you rather go for drinks with: Sir Toby Belch or Malvolio? I rest my case.

Which do you agree with? Leave your comments below.

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