ANTIQUE POLITENESS

I came across an interesting collection from “George Washington’s 110 Rules”.

They come from something called, The Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation, (As memorized by George Washington as a youth. Authorship unknown.)

There are 110 rules in this list, some of which are applicable mainly to bygone days, such as:

9. Spit not into the fire, nor stoop low before it; neither put your hands into the flames to warm them, nor set your feet upon the fire, especially if there be meat before it.

If I had a nickel for every time I had to call someone out for that! Or:

13. …if you see any filth or thick spittle put your foot dexterously upon it; if it be upon the clothes of your companions, put it off privately, and if it be upon your own clothes, return thanks to him who puts it off.

Where are the dexterous spittle coverers today?

But most of the 110 rules translate into a pretty timeless code of politeness and respect for others.

One in has particular application to our Tweeting/texting/scrolling, an obsession which none of the Founding Fathers could have predicted:

18. Read no letter, books, or papers in company, but when
there is a necessity for the doing of it, you must ask leave…

This is gentlemanly conduct of a couple centuries back, when merely to read a book or a letter in another’s company without asking permission was recognized as disrespectful.

It is disrespectful, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be interesting if that rule were put back into practice?

I certainly don’t like it when someone in my presence scrolls through their endless Instagram feed instead of looking up to see if I have something to ask, or am quietly bleeding to death next to them.

If I never mention it to them, it’s probably because… well, it seems impolite to do so. And as Rule 40 states:

Strive not with your superior in argument,
But always submit your judgment to others with modesty.

Many gentile habits from Washington’s time that were everyday gestures of respect have dropped away in today’s world. I’m sure he would have been scandalized, for example, by the way grown men and women are typically addressed as “you guys”, even by waiters in upscale restaurants.

Just as we are rediscovering empathy and gratitude, are there not perhaps many small things, easily performed, that would make our impact on our fellows smoother, or at least less insulting?

Google “George Washington’s 110 Rules and see if you don’t find a few lacking from your repertoire.

As for the one about reading in front of others, I’m going to give it a try and see if it doesn’t make my companions feel more appreciated.

Care to join me?

And if you notice some spittle on my clothes, take me aside before you wipe it off, okay?

Geez! I hope you aren’t reading this in front of anybody…

By | 2018-08-27T06:51:02+00:00 August 27th, 2018|Uncategorized|

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