Monday, August 31, 2015

Etiquette and Pinky Fingers

Please keep your “pinky” curled, and we'll offer you some of these yummy treats.  
Many people mistakenly think, and actually still teach others, that one’s pinky finger should be extended when one is drinking tea from a cup. This is not considered proper by any trusted etiquette authorities. It is what is commonly known as an “affectation” that has been promoted by television and the media for some time now, just as women eating and drinking while wearing gloves, has been promoted in period dramas and films. As Judith Martin put it, these little nuances help with what "is evidently intended to add a touch of what passes for 'class.'” However, they are absolutely incorrect.
Curl your fingers as much as you can.
Many anthropologists and sociologists believe this habit was acquired hundreds of years ago, when the poor servants of the wealthy landowners and royalty in Europe, watched how their “Lords and Ladies” dined. They believe the servants picked up the habit of keeping a finger extended while drinking and dining.
And look, we don't thrust our pinky fingers out to pour the tea, either...
Only the wealthy could afford to purchase salt and exotic spices, like nutmeg, at their tables. Foods were eaten with one’s hands and a knife. Utensils were not used at many tables then. When dining, these wealthy people would keep the “pinky” finger extended when scooping up foods so that they could keep grease off of that finger. The finger could then be dipped into the salt or spices needed to season their foods. This kept grease and food particles out of the dishes holding the spices.
Pinky fingers are perfect for "pinky rings," not for sticking out while drinking tea.
Others think it started when tea and handle-less cups from China became popular in Europe. They believe tea drinkers would keep the pinky out because the cup was too hot to hold. However, the Chinese have never extended fingers in that manner, nor have the Japanese when drinking tea from cups without handles, so why would the British? The cups that Chinese use, still do not have handles to this day. These cups are held in the palm of the hand. Old artwork from the time, proves this as well.

Old artwork can be very helpful in showing a period as it truly was lived.

Aside from that, coffee houses at which hot coffee was served in cups, were very fashionable in England, prior to tea drinking becoming the trend. There is no debate though on how to drink coffee from a cup with regard to pinky fingers being ridiculously thrust out. The only debate with coffee, is that in many countries, it is still socially acceptable for one to pour his or her hot coffee into the saucer, in order for it to cool down to a drinkable temperature more quickly. Pouring one's coffee into the saucer to drink, has not been socially acceptable in many other countries, since the early to mid-1800s.
Here are two etiquette violations in one image~ Drinking with gloves on and sticking the pinky finger out.
Today, most all etiquette authorities agree; The proper way to hold a tea cup is with one or two fingers of the right hand put through the hole of the cup handle, while balancing the cup with your thumb on the top of the handle. Your other fingers should be curled beneath the handle.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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