20 June 2006



As a child, I had the language of manners drummed into me. What do you say? Errr... oh yeah.. thank you, thank you very much. And what's that magic word? Errr... yeah... please, please that's it! That's the magic word. The drill was to use these words where ever you went. Speeding ticket? Thank you officer! Toilet visit? Please may I go.
Actually I think these words are a bit over-rated. Using "please" and "thank you" is all very well and good but these tags can be used without genuine intent. They can be mere language habits that you exude simply through training. Showing gratitude should be felt and meant - so should requesting someone's service via "please". You can say "please" and "thank you" with vicious resignation when they should be uttered with real human feeling, a real sense of the "other" human being with whom you are in communication.
But manners is about much more than these words. Manners is about valuing and respecting the people that we all have to live amongst. One of the main tenets of my life is that I am everybody's equal - I'm not better that anybody else and nobody is better than me. I don't care how rich you are or how poor, how clever or stupid, how famous or unknown, how young or old, how masculine or feminine, how tall or small, how black or white - you're just my equal that's all. And everybody has their own story to tell, we are all products of genetics, environment and perhaps the choices we made when we arrived at crossroads in our lives. There but for the grace of God go I.
I hate ignorance and bullying. These characteristics typify people who lack basic manners. We might sometimes say - "Manners cost nothing but they are worth a lot". Manners prove we recognise that we are members of a society that connects us, makes us interdependent.
So don't try and push in front of me in a queue or you'll feel my wrath and I may not say "thank you" when I ask you to move your ass. And don't expect me to say "please" when I am claiming my rights. And when I fart or sneeze or belch I won't beg your pardon - these are involuntary physical expulsions for which I make no apology. But I will always try to say "sorry" and mean it when I have made a mistake because that is an important element of manners which demonstrates that at times human beings can be as selfless as they are selfish.


  1. I completely agree with you. Arrogant people never have any manners.It really annoys me when for example I stop and let another driver in front of me and they fail to acknowledge the action. I seem to go too far the other way though. I always find myself apologising when someone stands on my foot.But then, I am a wimp.If I was a bloke I would have to avoid the beach in order not to have sand kicked in my face. If I DID get sand kicked in my face, inevitably I would apologise for being in the way. I'm going on here aren't I? I will stop. Sorry! :-)

  2. Thank you Ms J.J.. I know what you are saying about driving manners - roadhogs, people who don't acknowledge you've hung back to let them through etc.. Some people - usually men - seem to use their cars as weapons in the highway game of oneupmanship. And yesterday I found myself left at red traffic lights because the dumb woman in front of me was busily texting on her mobile phone - before she got through the lights on amber - I could have murdered her in that instance but that wouldn't have been well-mannered of me would it?

  3. Fabulous post. It's a shame our youngsters, today, don't share these same values. Not all kids go without, mind you, but I see it more and more. You set a fine example for many of us, including today's youth. Out of curiosity, were you taught to say "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Sir"? Or is that simply a US thing or even just a southern US thing? I know many people who were never taught to say the ma'am's and sir's...I just wonder how universal it may be.

  4. Thank you for a post I wholeheartedly agree with, however it does raise your blood pressure by making you recall far too many incidents of rudeness.

  5. When I was four years old, I spent an evening (it felt like hours) at the dinner-table with my parents refusing to let me leave until I said, "May I please be excused." I think I wasn't objecting to being polite as much as I knew that if I caved, it wouldn't stop there. After I caved, I had to start saying, "Thank you very much for the very nice meal, may I please be excused?" Yikes.

    To this day, though, "please" and "thank you" are so ingrained in me that I probably use it to excess. I like to use "please" in my prayers, too. Too many prayers are so bossy!

  6. For most Brits 'manners' are an ingrained automatic reflex. We say sorry when there is nothing to be sorry for and thanks when we're handing over money for an expected service, like buying a paper. Well, that's all I do!

    The best example is that Basil Fawlty line, "Don't mention it. Oh, you didn't."


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