Monday, July 14, 2014

The Birthplace of Etiquette

"It depends, then, upon the spirit in which these forms are observed, whether their result shall be beneficial or not." 
We at Etiquipedia often read about the "birthplace of etiquette," as if there is a plaque somewhere, honoring this hallowed place.  In the past year alone, we have read that etiquette hails from: 
  • Great Britain's Buckingham Palace ~ We roared with laughter over that declaration
  • France (Versailles, to be more specific) ~ True, some of our etiquette rules did originate in France, including the word "etiquette," but a minute sum, when one looks at the bigger picture overall. 
  • Switzerland ~ Wait... Where?
  • China ~ Yes... some of the earliest writings on manners came from Confucius, however he didn't invent etiquette, he simply penned the rules up to that point in time.
  • Egypt ~ Far and away most plausible as the African continent and Middle East is believed to be the birthplace of man, but we do not know for certain.
The fact of the matter is, that manners started when man started, wherever that may have been. Wherever man began, he had to develop manners to get along with others around him. Etiquipedia has posted many articles on man, manners, socialization and development of manners, but rumours persist that there is a "birthplace of etiquette."
Over time, differing voices have written about manners and their thoughts on where, why and how etiquette was born and preserved.  Case in point, here is something from 1836 :
From The Laws of Etiquette, "A short book on manners and proper behavior for a 'gentleman,' as opposed to a 'man of fashion.'" 
"The formalities of refined society were at first established for the purpose of facilitating the intercourse of persons of the same standing, and increasing the happiness of all to whom they apply. They are now kept up, both to assist the convenience of intercourse and to prevent too great familiarity. If they are carried too far, and escape from the control of good sense, they become impediments to enjoyment. Among the Chinese they serve only the purpose of annoying to an incalculable degree. "The government," says De Marcy, in writing of China, "constantly applies itself to preserve, not only in the court and among the great, but among the people themselves, a constant habit of civility and courtesy. The Chinese have an infinity of books upon such subjects; one of these treatises contains more than three thousand articles. Everything is pointed out with the most minute detail; the manner of saluting, of visiting, of making presents, of writing letters, of eating, etc...: and these customs have the force of laws -- no one can dispense with them. There is a special tribunal at Peking, of which it is one of the chief duties, to ensure the observance of these civil ordinances?" One would think that one was here reading an account of the capital of France. It depends, then, upon the spirit in which these forms are observed, whether their result shall be beneficial or not. The French and the Chinese are the most formal of all the nations. Yet the one is the stiffest and most distant; the other, the easiest and most social. "We may define politeness," says La Bruyére, "though we cannot tell where to fix it in practice. It observes received usages and customs, is bound to times and places, and is not the same thing in the two sexes or in different conditions. Wit alone cannot obtain it: it is acquired and brought to perfection by emulation. Some dispositions alone are susceptible of politeness, as others are only capable of great talents or solid virtues. It is true politeness puts merit forward, and renders it agreeable, and a man must have eminent qualifications to support himself without it." By"A. Gentleman"(1836) 
The bottom line, is that manners and etiquette were born when mankind was born, and where mankind was born.  Without social skills to suit others around him or her, he or she would have never survived.