Manners for Moderns, pt. 2

Here’s the second installment in our look at Manners for Moderns, a 1938 etiquette guide for young men.



It is very nice to think
The world is full of meat and drink.

Eating is the one social activity which is common to everybody in all lands. Table manners grew out of the fact that unless he is eating in a room empty of all but himself, a man eats in company and food is less appetizing if the other fellow’s table manners are sloppy and disgusting. It matters little what sort of food is being served, whether the table is loaded with priceless silver and china or tin and graniteware; the simplest meal is made more attractive by the use of good table etiquette.

Correct table manners are really so simple and so often important as a guide to the character of the individual that every man owes it to himself to acquire them.

After seating yourself at the table, unfold your napkin and place it across your knees.

Do not shake it out as though you were trying to flag a train, or tuck it under your collar, tie it around your neck, or anchor it under your belt.

The functions of a napkin are to remove crumbs or grease from around your lips, to wipe your fingers, and to protect your lap from dropped food. After the meal, place your napkin in loosely gathered folds beside your plate.

Silverware is always placed with forks to the left of the service plate, knives and spoons to the right of the service plate. Knives are laid with the cutting edge toward the center of the plate and forks are placed with tines up.

Silver is arranged in the order in which it will be used, beginning at the outside and working toward the plate.

The cocktail fork or spoon is generally placed on a small plate holding the cocktail glass. The cocktail fork may already be on the table–at the left of the service fork. A spoon may be used with fruit cocktail. After using it, lay your cocktail fork or spoon on the small plate beside the cocktail glass.

The knife is used to cut food and to butter your bread, if no bread-and-butter knife is provided. When you are not using your knife for cutting, place it across the upper edge of your plate with the cutting edge toward the center of the plate.

Do not use it for putting any food in your mouth, or place it with the tip at the plate and the handle on the tablecloth. It might slip off and soil the cloth.

When cutting meat, cut only one or two bites at a time, lay your knife down, eat these, and then cut more as you need them. A plate littered with small pieces of meat and vegetables stirred into a hash looks as though a grenade has exploded in its middle. It is not an attractive sight to your neighbor.

Remember: Never place your knife in your mouth.

Food is placed in the mouth with the fork. Eat all the food on the large plate with the fork,–never with a knife or spoon. Never pile up a mound of food on the back of your fork with your knife.
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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.

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