Sunday, August 24, 2014

Amy Vanderbilt on Etiquette's Importance and the WWII American Military

Amy Vanderbilt
"During World War II the Government understood the importance of teaching our military men and women some of the subtleties of proper social behavior in foreign lands. Proper American social behavior was not enough. Our soldiers and sailors learned to remove their shoes before entering a Japanese home, or a Mohammedan mosque, or a Buddhist temple. They squatted or sat cross-legged at table and ate out of communal dishes in Mohammedan lands and in various Oriental countries.
They tried to remember certain shibboleths and taboos and what English words could not be politely used in English drawing rooms "bloody" and "fanny," for example. They noted that in England "napkin" or "nappie" often meant diaper; "flannel" meant a washcloth, and "serviette" meant a napkin as it does on the Continent. 
Our truck became a "lorry" or a "van," and our trolley was a "tram," a closet was a "cupboard," and molasses "treacle." "Tea" could be just that or the equivalent of our Sunday night supper. A shower was a "douche" and a tiny toy, a "dinkie," a boutonniere, a "button-hole." To charge something was "to put it down," and to do an errand was "to run a message." Shortly, under military instruction and because it was more convenient, our men and women learned to do in Rome as the Romans.  
If this works under the stress of war, it will work in peacetime. As much as possible, while still identifying ourselves as Americans, we should behave as those we visit behave, not try to take the freest manners and language of our Main Streets abroad." Amy Vanderbilt
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Moderator for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 
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