Author Topic: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?  (Read 1872 times)

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jimithing

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Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« on: January 18, 2011, 09:26:12 PM »
The discussion in the thread about posters trying to convince people sparked me to post this, and it's something I've often thought about.

There are clearly some etiquette experts, like Miss Manners, The Posts, Leticia Baldridge, etc. Some of their opinions differ, some are the same, and some areas of etiquette haven't been addressed with the changing times yet.

How influential are their opinions on your opinion about etiquette? I will often see posts where someone will post Miss Manner's opinion as the definitive answer, and basically suggest the discussion should end there because an etiquette expert has spoken. We also often ask for people to cite sources.  Who makes the ultimate decision regarding etiquette? There are many things I disagree with Miss Manners on, for instance, the one about a guest not disclosing their allergies to a host.

Etiquette also seems subjective and fluid. It's not an objective science, like saying the earth rotates around the sun, which is a fact.

So, I guess my question is, after all that blathering, is is the opinion an Etiquette Maven gives, basically gospel? Are dollar dances rude because someone says so, for example? Is there room to debate that?

rashea

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2011, 10:04:23 PM »
I disagree with them sometimes. That said, when they back me up, of course I'm going to quote them. I certainly don't mean it to end a discussion, but it's a pretty good hand to play.

I don't think there is one absolute repository of etiquette, and I think etiquette is fluid. It's the logic behind many of the answers that interests me far more than which side they are on.
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MaggieB

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2011, 10:25:00 PM »
I wouldn't expect an etiquette expert's opinion to trump everyone else's, but I do think they should hold some weight here.  Etiquette is fluid, but it's still important to have some standards.  Sometimes the letter of a rule is outdated, but we can still learn from the spirit of the rule.

I wouldn't say that the expert's opinion should be the final word, though.  I think it's useful information, and if I were disagreeing with (for example) Miss Manners, I'd expect to explain why, but I don't think it's right for one poster to dictate when the conversation is over on a discussion board.

shhh its me

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2011, 10:36:46 PM »
  I think it depends, if it's an old rule that has remained unchanged and is still commonly referenced by multiple sources. It's pretty hard to argue "well I disagree with 50, 70, 100 years of etiquette." I do think " my friend and I mutually agree to disregard this rule in our interactions" or "There is another factor to me that is more important then etiquette" is fine but " no matter how many sources over how many decades are cited, I have decide this is the rule" Then we're talking about what we would like etiquette to be not what it is. I also don't think anyone one person can declare the subject close the debate one.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2011, 10:45:10 PM by Merry Mrs Martin »

Millionaire Maria

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2011, 10:43:42 PM »
I wouldn't say that an etiquette expert's opinion is the gospel truth, but I think it comes pretty close. Anytime I come across something new in etiquette, I usually want to know why. It's the "why" that usually sways me to the expert's side.

I find that when people will have an opinion that differs greatly from that of an expert's, it's usually because they have a dog in the fight. That can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the context. For example, the issue with food allergies. One can't really expect a person with allergies to not have an agenda when it comes to that particular area of etiquette. It may be self-serving, but in a completely justifiable and understandable way. Then you have a situation like registry information in invitations. Most people who argue that it's not rude are probably doing so because they have either done it, or want to do it. It's self-serving in a way that is based purely on convenience as opposed to self-preservation.

In contrast, I don't see an etiquette expert really having an agenda when it comes to the rules. Therefore, their explanation of "why" is probably going to be more all encompassing than an explanation from someone who clearly has a personal reason for believing what they do.
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Flora Louise

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2011, 02:04:37 PM »
Not necessarily. I can think of two issues I disagree with Miss Manners over. I would trust her judgment on most questions, though.
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DangerMouth

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2011, 02:16:41 PM »
Also, I can't help thinking that Miss Manners would get gagged if she posted here. She can be pretty darn snarky, snippy and sarcastic, at times :D

Judah

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2011, 02:18:08 PM »
Also, I can't help thinking that Miss Manners would get gagged if she posted here. She can be pretty darn snarky, snippy and sarcastic, at times :D

Indeed.  I think that's why I like her.
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PeasNCues

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2011, 02:20:25 PM »
I also think that most etiquette experts are looking at only ONE standard of etiquette.

I think rudeness is affected by things like personal history, relationship with the "victim" and the culture you live in.
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Lisbeth

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2011, 02:21:56 PM »
I disagree with Miss Manners on a few matters and often with the Posts.

But I tend to see Miss Manners more as an expert on traditional etiquette.  It doesn't always square well with modern-day issues, but most of the time, I can see where she's coming from and that's why I often support her (not always, but often).

With the Posts, I tend to disagree more often, but even then, they usually have pretty good judgment about manners.
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Flora Louise

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2011, 02:34:49 PM »
Also, I can't help thinking that Miss Manners would get gagged if she posted here. She can be pretty darn snarky, snippy and sarcastic, at times :D

In that case, the Ehell banned are in good company.
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DangerMouth

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2011, 02:37:58 PM »
Also, I can't help thinking that Miss Manners would get gagged if she posted here. She can be pretty darn snarky, snippy and sarcastic, at times :D

In that case, the Ehell banned are in good company.

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TaylorMade

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2011, 10:28:15 PM »
I disagree with them sometimes. That said, when they back me up, of course I'm going to quote them. I certainly don't mean it to end a discussion, but it's a pretty good hand to play.

I don't think there is one absolute repository of etiquette, and I think etiquette is fluid. It's the logic behind many of the answers that interests me far more than which side they are on.

I agree with rashea on this one...   If I quote one of the experts, I don't expect the conversation to end, but I'm sure going to quote it, because it backs me up :)

Dindrane

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2011, 11:09:42 PM »
I tend to think of Etiquette as an academic field not typically recognized by the academe. :D

Basically, it has a lot in common with, say, history or sociology, or even the hard sciences (as understood by professional academics, anyway).  It's not so much that there are facts or anything like the Truth, nor is there anyone engaged in studying or writing about it who is infallible.

Instead, Etiquette (like most academic fields) has a body of writings and knowledge that come together to form the discipline.  Collectively, they define what is considered correct and what is considered not correct.  Certain individuals are more influential than others, generally because they have contributed something to the body of knowledge that most people find to be correct.  But even they are not "right" 100% of the time, and in time, other influential individuals will replace them.

So it's more like a theory than a fact.  It's a perpetual work in progress, always being refined to respond to and incorporate new evidence.

Given my viewpoint, I consider Miss Manners to be an etiquette expert.  I give her interpretation of an etiquette rule the same weight I would give a history professor's interpretation of a historical event.  That is, I think it has more weight than someone who has not made a career out of studying the topic, but that does not make it inherently correct.  If someone else can present a convincing argument, it is possible I will be swayed.  The trick is that Miss Manners herself (and other etiquette experts) present pretty darned convincing arguments, so it takes a lot to be more convincing than that!

Aside from that, people who set out to write about etiquette in the aggregate are less likely to be responding to circumstances that are mostly regional or confined to a series of anecdotes.  Most of us who do not set out to do this as a career are limited in our observations of how the world works, so it's much more difficult to make generalized statements about etiquette as a whole.  I know what my friends and family do, but that doesn't mean that what they do is the most correct, you know?  The best arguments that I (as an amateur etiquetteist) can make are the ones based in logic, rather than in observation of social norms.


Nurvingiel

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Re: Is An Etiquette Expert The Final Word?
« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2011, 11:18:08 PM »
I view etiquette as a subset of cultural anthropology.

I don't view etiquette experts as having the final word because AFAIK there aren't any who are experts on the etiquette from my own culture. I, and other Canadians, do our best to evaluate etiquette as it applies to our own culture.

It would be pretty awesome if there was a Canadian expert though! I suggest Ron McLean. ;D
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