Manners for Moderns, Pt. 1

Not long ago, we came across a small etiquette manual for young men called Manners for Moderns. Published in 1938, it was written by one Kathleen Black and illustrated by North Young. This small volume offers a window into an earlier age that we found intriguing; we trust you will, too. We’ll offer a chapter a week, for the next seven Tuesdays.

Here’s the introduction, followed by Chapter One:

This book is written especially for young men. It has to do with everyday people and their everyday doings. Its pages are often humorous, because facts learned with laughter are most enjoyed and best remembered.

But, for all its mirth, the book has a thoughtful side, too. It aims to bring the problems of manners out into the light of day, where every reader can size them up according to his own interests and needs.

The book is of pocket-size so that it may be an out-of-school companion as well as a textbook for the classroom. In classroom or out, its purpose remains the same–to encourage an ever-increasing respect for the common sense of courtesy.

Great men or great failings will make you
respected or despised; but trifles will make
you either liked or disliked in the general
run of the world.

Have you heard about the sad case of Joe Doakes? Joe had Priscilla Ontop out the other night. The next day Priscilla rushed over to see her best friend, Gwendolyn Mazuma, and plunged into the conversation like this:

“My dear, I was never so mortified in all my life! You know that Joe Doakes, don’t you? Well,I let him take me to a movie last night. Never again! Let me tell you. . . .”

Gwendolyn’s younger brother overheard what Priscilla said, and in no time it was all over town. Poor Joe won’t stick his head out of doors and has tdAdmiral Byrd to ask when the next expedition leaves for the South Pole. His future certainly looks black, and the only out he can see is to get away from it all.

It isn’t as though Joe hadn’t had a chance to learn, but every time his mother or sister tried to show him some of the finer points of good manners he only sniffed:

“Aw, what’s that got to do with me? That’s sissy stuff!”

That Is
Taken for

Joe would have saved himself a lot of grief, if long ago he had taken pencil and paper and put down in black and white just exactly what he stood to gain by making good manners a part of his daily life. On another page he might have listed the little common things which everyone knows and practices every day that are nothing more than good manners. And would he have been surprised! For the truth about manners is simply this: We use at least some part of etiquette every day, and we couldn’t get along without it!

Does that sound too strange to be believed? Stop a minute and think it over.

If Pete goes out of his way to take you home in his car, don’t you say, “Thank you”? When you’re walking with Alice and she drops her gloves, don’t you pick them up? If you want to borrow Jim’s camera, don’t you ask for it politely? (Do you suppose you’d get it if you demanded it?) Haven’t you ever done an errand or mailed a letter because someone asked it of you? And don’t you sometimes ask people to do things for you?

All those things and a thousand like them are part of etiquette. And etiquette is nothing more than a system for getting along with other people.

Poor Joe Doakes never thought about that. His idea was that etiquette was something women fooled around with at tea parties. He didn’t realize that he knew some of the system but not nearly enough of it. And yet Joe wouldn’t think of trying to play football or tennis or any other game without knowing something about it beforehand.

  Sowing Good
Manners and

Everyone knows people who have succeeded in life and people who have failed. Everyone at some time has heard a failure say: “I’d certainly like to know how Smith did it! I know a lot more about the business than he does!”

But haven’t you noticed often that it’s the man with the quick grin and the greatest consideration for other people who gets ahead in the world?

Little things count! A lot of little things add up to one big whole that’s mighty important.

You’ve probably your own way of sizing up the people you meet and know. Probably you’re pretty particular about the girls you take out, and about the way they behave in public. But how much thought have you given to how you size up with the girls?

Being tall, dark, and handsome doesn’t count half as much as knowing the correct thing to do! There just isn’t any time or place in life where good manners are not important; where not having ’em may not mean the difference between being a success and being a failure.

  Who Makes
the Rules?

“All right!” you say. “I can see that. But what’s the big idea behind it all? Who makes the rules? How do they get to be the rules? Why is etiquette, anyhow?”

The answer is: We make the rules ourselves, and a lot of rules get on the list because at some time or other in man’s social history things couldn’t be done sensibly any other way.

Want an illustration? A man tips his hat when he a meets a man or woman on the street. Know why?

Back in the days when a man never appeared in public without wearing a full-dress suit of steel armor, even his own mother wouldn’t have known him unless he raised the front, or visor, of his helmet. When he met another knight on the highway, they had to raise the awnings to see whether they were friends or enemies! When hats were adopted, people kept right on with the custom.

Want another example?

When walking down the street with a girl, a man will walk on the “outside” of the sidewalk.

Ever see any pictures of old European towns in which the second stories of houses were built out over the streets?

When those towns were built, there wasn’t any modern plumbing or sewerage system. All the garbage and waste water was tossed out into the street gutters. A man walking with a lady placed her next to the building so that her dress would be less likely to get splashed.

There’s a reminder of that custom in the dictionary. If you are interested, you can look for it under the word “gardyloo,” which comes from the French phrase “Gare de l’eau!” or “Watch out for the water!”

Those are two of the many etiquette rules which grew out of common sense and stayed with us because they had come to be part of the good-manners trademark. There are just as many rules which were good once but which have been discarded in our modern world.

Take the matter of drinking from a cup. It hasn’t been such a long time since cups were made without handles and saucers had deeper sides. In those days it was quite all right to pour your drink into the saucer and drink from it. But saucer-drinking was ugly and awkward. It took an expert to manage a saucer full of liquid with one hand without giving himself and the table a shower bath.

So, some bright soul invented the cup handle and changed a whole rule of manners.

Nowadays it’s correct to drink only from the cup.

We could go on and on listing dozens of things which were once manners but are now forgotten or out of date. But at the moment we aren’t interested in the past, so we’ll take up the next question.

  What Is

You can find lots of definitions of the word “etiquette” in the dictionary. Boiled down, they all mean about the same thing as that old copybook favorite: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Even back in the days when our ancestors trotted around in skins, John Caveman came to learn that it was smart to speak gently to his neighbor if he didn’t want a sizeable stone ax bounced on his skull. Probably it would cost John a good many burned houses, stolen wives, and private wars to find that out, but sooner or later he had to admit that the surest way to success in life is by getting along with other people.

Today, we don’t settle our quarrels in quite the same way that John Caveman did, but that rule for success hasn’t changed one single bit! If anything, it is even more important, for competition is keener now than it ever was, and we live a lot closer to our neighbors.

Not long ago the Carnegie Foundation made a study of ten thousand men to find out the reasons for success. It was found that special education counted only fifteen per cent as against a score of eighty-five per cent for personal characteristics. One of the most important character traits listed was “adaptability.” And adaptability simply means the ability to “fit in” with the people around you.

That is the idea behind all systems of etiquette, all rules for good manners. Manners were invented to make it easier for people to live and work together. Etiquette is the guidebook of habits which became popular because they made life pleasanter. No one who wants to be a success in his social, family, or business life can afford to neglect his manners.

  Try Being
Pleasant to
Everyone for
a Day

Now here is the best thing of all about learning the rules. Using good manners is like putting money out at interest–you get back more than you put in. If you don’t believe that you can try it for yourself. Get up some morning with the idea that you are going to be as pleasant as you can to everyone all that day. Smile! Act interested in everybody. Go out of your way to be agreeable and do small errands for other people. Don’t let yourself get into any arguments. Don’t say a cross word to anyone. Use all the good manners you ever heard of on everyone from your closest friend to the corner bootblack. Make yourself be cheerful all day. Go to bed feeling cheerful. The first day people may think you’ve gone completely mad, but they’ll soon get the idea. Then, the next time you meet them, notice if their attitudes toward you aren’t a little more friendly.

Cheerfulness and good manner go together. The rules which are “etiquette” are easy for anyone to learn and are the tools with which we carve our relationships to other people. By the manners which he uses on others a man advertises what sort of manners he expects them to use on him. If he wants respect, he has to show respect.

Is there anyone who doesn’t want to be popular? Is there anyone who doesn’t want to get ahead in the world? If there is, he needn’t bother to learn what etiquette means. But to everyone who does want to be a success, and who does want to be liked by his fellow men, we recommend that every day he write in the copybook of his mind: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

image-Chart 1: How Do I Compare with Others?

In the top spaces put in the initials of ten of your friends. Fill in the squares under the initials and opposite the character traits. Use the plus (+), minus (-), and equals (=) signs to show whether you think you are above, below, or equal to each friend in each of the given qualities.

If your chart shows a very high number of plus signs, you have too high an opinion of yourself or are associating with people below your level of ability.

If your chart shows a very high number of minus signs, you are associating with people who have adjusted themselves to life better than you have, or you have an unnecessary feeling of inferiority. If the plus and minus signs, together about balance with the equals signs, you are getting along with the people around you.

If you make this chart out seriously and study it carefully, you will get a pretty good “line on yourself.” If you will try to improve in those qualities in which you rated yourself minus, you will find yourself happier in the world.

image-Chart 2: How Do I Rate?

The higher your score, the more liked you are in general. The possible score in 79. Only about ten per cent of people have that score. The average young person has a score of 64. A person who is generally disliked will score around 30.

In filling out this chart you should try to be as honest as possible with yourself. The idea is not to try to get as high a score as possible but to see how well you get along with other people. You should study those questions which you have had to answer “No” honestly to see how you can improve yourself. Sometimes a man has a little personal habit of which he is  unaware that makes him very irritating to other people. This chart is to help you find out those things about yourself. Fill out this chart as honestly as you can. Don’t try to fool yourself, for all these questions are about things which other people notice.

Read Part 2 of Manners for Moderns >>

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