A Brief History of Man-ners

Posted on April 21, 2011 by forgetfulgentleman | 1 Comment

By Teah Strandjord

A gentleman who strives for his best is quite appealing.

If you have wondered how to become a better gentleman, I have three words for you: "Manners maketh man". The motto of the New College at Oxford, it implies more than just the benefits of good manners. It further suggests that neither status nor income will ultimately define you. How you behave toward other people, however, will make you the man you are. So if you desire professional success, love interest, social respect, or simply the satisfaction of good character, then mind your Ps and Qs and manner-up.

What Are Manners, Anyway?

Let’s take a brief walk through Victorian history, and then be thankful that times have changed.

Victorian polite society considered manners of utmost importance, where trivial demands of etiquette could mean your fall from the upper echelon. Today it takes an Eliot Spitzer-like scandal to truly fall from favor, but for the Victorians poor speech, such as rudely uttering “lunch” (gasp) in lieu of “luncheon” could prove fatal. Worry not, times have changed. You may say lunch today and achieve your goals.

The Victorians also revered Beau Brummell’s example of social etiquette, a trendsetter who took five-hours to dress, and polished his shoes with champagne. While it still holds true that how you dress is important, do as the dandy Brummell did, and today you’ll appear to be more of a Patrick Bateman than a master of manners.

Victorians left no mannerly stone unturned. “Madge”, the author of many etiquette manuals, even defined the correct manner to crack nuts at the dinner table. According to one of her guides, the man who could best crack nuts would be “in request by the ladies on either side”. In this case, modern times deliver the modern gentleman a small dose of bad news: women today have higher expectations.

Fast Forward - Modern Manners

Today’s manners are less complicated. To start, one can simply avoid behaving like a savage: uncivilized, childish, unreasonable and cruel. Sadly, I can think of a few distinguished modern men who sport tailored suits and champagne shined shoes, yet behave barbarically. Manner-up!

Modern manners are also less about conforming to a set society, and more about exercising your own conscience - to live a self-examined life as Socrates suggested - and thus choose between right and wrong, mannerly and not. Embrace the concept of culture, "The best that has been thought and said in the world,” and then live the Kantian credo: Sapere aude, "Dare to be wise!" Bad manners, today, can result from the lack of courage to think independently. The courageous, independent, mannerly man will get what he desires, I guarantee.

Some Manners That’ll Make Me Swoon:

• Graciousness, say please and thank you
• Send hand-written thank you notes
• Literally mind your Ps and Qs, also known as pints and quarts in the Irish pub
• Think before you speak - jokes at the expense of others and foul language is for our savage friends
• Be compassionate, and do unto others as you’d have others do unto you
• Listen, you rarely learn while you’re speaking (or texting)
• Remember names, and introduce friends unknown to each other
• Know what makes a lady, and then treat her as a gentleman would

To learn more about what defines a lady, dining etiquette, dressing well, and other ways to become a polished modern gentleman, keep reading my posts! Finally, consider the above, not because I say so, but because you would feel less of a man if you hadn’t. With consciousness and manners, you will maketh the man you are - a gentleman who is irresistible and achieves his best.

And in case you must know… How To Crack A Macadamia Nut

Posted in becoming a gentleman, how to be a gentleman, how to crack a macadamia nut, manners, manners for men

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1 Response

Prospective Matt
Prospective Matt

April 22, 2011

Genius…simply genius. Can't wait for the next post!

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