Sunday, July 28, 2019

Of Snobs and Manners

Snobbishness consists not of a set of manners, but of a state of mind. It’s possible to eat cabbage with a knife, and still be the most and most intolerable of snobs. – According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word snob does not come from “sine nobilitate.” Sine nobilitate means “without nobility,” which makes it feel as though it could be the origin for snob. The only problem with this is that the various senses of snob which are concerned with social class and suchlike were not the first meanings of this word. When snob first began to be found in print, it was used as a term for a shoemaker, or cobbler. By the 1830s snob had taken on meanings that were directly related to class, but not in the way that we use it today. This early 19th century sense was “a person not belonging to the upper classes; one not an aristocrat.” In the middle 19th century the word took on the meaning of “one who blatantly imitates, fawningly admires, or vulgarly seeks association with those he regards as his superiors.” Finally, by the beginning of the 20th century snob had come to be used to mean “one who tends to rebuff the advances of those he regards as inferior; one inclined to social exclusiveness.”
Listen, World! One hears a good deal of impolite speech in these days when humanity is being reshuffled for a new deal. How we crow over the downfall of crowns and gloat over the fact that the laborer is at last coming into his own! I gloat with the rest, for I've always felt that the bumper share of the crops should go to the chaps who sow and and them. Nevertheless, it may be well to pause before call too many names. For instance, there's this business of labeling people snobs. The popular definition of a snob is anything that rides in an automobile, understands French, and takes lemon with his tea. There are other distinguishing marks, these are sufficient to you as one of the obnoxious breed. 

Now that's all wrong, dear comrade Hoi Polloi. Snobbishness consists not of a set of manners, but of a state of mind. It’s possible to milk a dozen cows a day, tend a potato patch, split wood, butcher hogs and eat cabbage with a knife, and still be the most and most intolerable of snobs. It’s also possible to own six sets of cars, a gold dinner service, and winter in Honolulu, and still be the most neighborly and helpful of commoners. Odd as it may seem, a flannel shirt is no guarantee of a knightly heart beneath, nor does a silken BVD invariably clothe a knight. 

Many a man rides in an automobile because he has earned it by honest, fair dealing, by industry and intelligence. Many a man reposes in a gutter, because he’d be gutter bound if you gave him a million. And there’s quite as much intolerance, suspicion, meanness and lack of dignity in the tenement as there is in the mansion. Let us by all means do away with social industrial injustice. But while we’re doing: it, let us also remember that individual character is the final, determining factor in a man’s success or failure. The surest sign of a weak or snobbish nature, is a tendency is to blame or envy or flutter the other chap. The Lord gave you two legs. Stand on them and stop making faces at the rest of the world. – Written and Illustrated By Elsie Robinson, 1923

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

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