“Mind Your Manners”

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I had to learn a whole slate of table manners when I was growing up. Among them were don’t slurp your milk, chew with your mouth shut, don’t talk while you’re eating, use your silverware not your fingers, do the two hand switcheroo with the knife and fork when cutting meattwohandswitcheroo

(you then had to trade the knife and fork and eat off the fork),

ask to be excused at the end of the meal, and don’t drop food to the dog under the table! I put in this last one to reward anyone who finished the list. It was an actual rule, but I doubt that it was in Emily Post’s book of etiquette.

At camp I learned two new rules which were given special names or rhymes. The first went “Mabel, Mabel well and able get your elbow off the table.” This was new for me. And if you propped your knife on the side of your plate you were called out for making a “gangplank.” Not manner related but camp fun nonetheless, when a milk carton was empty we were to lay it on its side and announce “dead cow,” to get the servers’ attention.

With the exception of the knife and fork switcheroo, all these manners seem to be expected all over the United States. I am curious if any of my readers can add to my list.

24 thoughts on ““Mind Your Manners”

  1. In my part of England, certainly no switching hands to eat meat but we were taught to press peas onto the back of the fork to eat them and not scoop them up. In fact the fork could not be used for scooping under any circumstances. That and using a soup spoon you pushed away from you as you scooped up the soup and didn’t drag it towards you. You hen brought the spoon back towards your mouth keeping the handle at right angles to the holding hand so you had to sip from the side of the spoon rather than put the whole thing in your mouth. And then there was the etiquette of which knife and fork and spoon went with which course…

  2. I always found that American switcheroo to be strange! For Britain and the Commonwealth that would be bad table manners. We have to make it through the meal with fork in the left and knife in the right, cutting or no cutting. My parents made sure I mastered that from kindergarten. It’s not frequently called for now though, so I daresay my kindergarten self probably does a much better job than I do! 😂

  3. Your post reminds me of the book, All I need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten. And here are my additions:

    Attracting attention to yourself in public….talking loudly, conspicuous clothes, staring at people….How important is keeping good manners and right conduct alive? It’s true, you become more credible when you are in touch with your manners.

  4. We don’t do the cutlery switching thing over here. But I have seen many Americans do it in London restaurants. It just looks awkward. 🙂
    I was always taught to never drink from a bottle or container, always use a glass. When I was first offered a beer with no glass, I considered that to be very bad manners, and asked for a glass to drink it from. I still do.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I’m with you on the glass with a beer. I stare at the waiter until he gets the hint. Or just tell him if he doesn’t . Usually he’ll say “Oh. Do you want a glass?”

  5. Another UK reader – that business of putting down your knife after cutting everything up always seemed odd to me. where do you put it if you can’t lean it on your plate? Doesn’t it mess up the table cloth?
    It seemed to me like a parent cutting up a child’s food so that they could eat it easily – only you got to be old enough to do it yourself.
    UK table manners have moved on a little over the past century or so and if your food doesn’t need to be cut it’s now acceptable not to brandish a useless knife in one hand. Eating with the fingers is still generally frowned on though.
    (Unless you happen to be in a restaurant or home where it is ethincally acceptable.)

  6. We were always required to say:’Thank you for a nice dinner’ before asking if we could ‘get down’. It annoyed me even when I was very young because I didn’t necessarily think the dinner HAD been nice so the phrase meant nothing. (And of course, we were required to eat everything on the plate regardless.) I would have been happier with a phrase which thanked my mother for preparing the meal for us – that I could have said with genuine feeling.

  7. My father, never missed saying thank you for a nice supper to my mom, and kiss her on the head or neck.

    My biggest complaint is with those that wear a hat or cap while eating. I live in the South, where we are supposed to be really polite people. It is a norm now, to see young and older eating wearing a hat. Whenever I was training a class of Police Motorcycle Officers, any place we went to eat, they were required to have the helmet removed, and under their left arm, visor down, in a show of respect for others in a restaurant.

    1. That touches on what I wrote for today. It is amazing how different generations have different understandings of manners. My husband thanks me for every meal too. I told him that was all I needed to cook for him.

  8. We had to keep our elbows in when eating. My dad made us set the table with a table cloth and full silverware every night. I do this now and we eat at the table every night. Actually we eat all our meals at the table during the weekend and holidays.

  9. Here in Australia we had the soup spoon rules, scooping away from you. No elbows on the table. We didn’t have the meat switcheroo though.
    But the pea scoop switcheroo with the fork, we weren’t allowed to smash/press them onto the back of the fork as Tan above.
    Always had to ask permission to leave the table. Our knife & fork had to be placed together on the dinner plate when finished. Then had to take the plate & cutlery with us, rinse & stack on leaving the table…no coughing or sniffing at the table either this was seen as the height of rudeness.
    Blessings,
    Jennifer

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