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The practice of etiquette has been central to all cultures and civilizations because it functions to establish boundaries of proper comportment in the realm of social relations and hierarchies. The Bible contained imperatives to regulate indecorous behavior, with the Book of Ecclesiastes advising one to "Eat as it becometh a man and devour not, lest thou be hated," while in the Talmud, the importance of controlling the self's more primal urges is asserted in enjoinments against licking fingers, belching, drinking wine in one gulp, or giving off "an offensive odor." Even more important was the manner in which etiquette prescribed deference toward teachers, elders, social superiors, and those at the center of power; according to an Egyptian conduct book dating from 2000 b.c.e., not only is it "worthy" when a "son hearkens to his father," but so should one practice flattery towards a superior, for example, by "laugh[ing] when he laughs."

A Civilizing Process

Though the Middle Ages in Europe witnessed the harnessing of knights to a code of chivalry and the flourishing of a romance troubadour culture demanding particular rules of conduct, it was the Renaissance that brought social codes and conventions to new heights of importance. Courts now served elites and sycophants as thriving centers of power, requiring the ability to fashion one's identity and climb the social ladder in a frequently precarious, if not treacherous, milieu. With the development of the printing press, courtesy books such as Giovanni della Casa's Il Galateo (1560) flourished to meet a growing demand, but it was Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (1528) that most brilliantly epitomized the rules by which the perfect courtierurbane, witty, sporty, educated, and discreteshould live. In a world dependent upon networks of patronage and the dispensing of favors, right manners at the table or on the playing field were an essential aspect of self-projection along the trajectory of personal and professional advancement.

Manners preoccupied early modern intellectuals as well, most notably Desiderius Erasmus (1466?1536), whose De civilitate morum puerilium (1530; On civility in boys) was one of the most influential and best-selling treatises of the sixteenth century. Underneath Erasmus' injunctions that boys not eat with their mouths open or cast sidelong glances at others were deeper issues concerning self-regulation and emerging notions of shame that centered upon the body. It was the sociologist and social historian Norbert Elias who most seminally examined this shift from the Middle Ages in individual self-restraint and bodily control and labeled it a "civilizing process"; according to Elias, the emergence in the early modern period of the state, with its monopoly over physical force and its growing social interdependencies, resulted in a transformation of human relationships and with it "corresponding changes in men's manners [and] in their personality structure, the provisional result of which is our form of 'civilized' conduct and sentiment." The theory, while not without its criticswho declared it Eurocentric, misrepresentative of history, or overly teleologicalnevertheless witnessed from the 1970s onward a resurgence of interest among anthropologists and historians, who found in it a guiding framework in understanding the history of the body, power relations, social and gender relations, the history of private life, and the larger connection between historical currents and social and psychological processes.

Elias paid particular attention to the relationship between manners and the rise of the absolutist state, and certainly Louis XIV's seventeenth-century court at Versailles constituted another defining moment in the history of etiquette and the French notion of civilité. According to the court observer Saint-Simon, the king cast a watchful eye over his realm of co-opted noblemen, projecting his royal aura through material ostentation, expecting flattery even from his preachers, and spending equal time on cookery as on politics. Knowing "how to make the most of a word, a smile, even a glance," Louis, by addressing another with some trifling remark, could cause "all eyes [to turn] on the person so honored," just as he could with equal frivolity "ruin many men in all ranks of life." The emphasis on protocol and display and on competing for the king's favor also served to reinforce a larger centralization of power, since, as Saint-Simon puts it, the king "compelled his courtiers to live beyond their income, and gradually reduced them to depend on his bounty for means of subsistence."

As notable figures at court, women could also play a significant role in determining the tone of conduct that would prevail; the highly educated and needlepointing (though occasionally crude) Elizabeth I (15331603), for example, oversaw such well-bred, neochivalric luminaries as Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh. Women, however, were more frequently the intended audience for courtesy book writers, who sought to instill values of proper wifeliness, including compliance, modesty, and, according to one seventeenth-century English guidebook, protectiveness (or "extreme tender[ness]") toward the husband's reputation. Civility in this respect represented the confluence of manners with morals as well as the assertion of social control and structures of dominationall of which would continue through the proliferating etiquette and domestic-life books of the nineteenth century.

Manners in Modern Times

The eighteenth century continued to advance a program of proper court behavior, with the influential Lord Chesterfield (16941773) coining the term etiquette in letters to his son that spoke of the "art of pleasing" at court and the necessity of cultivating "that easy good breeding, that engaging manner, and those graces, which seduce and prepossess people in your favour at first sight." It was this kind of naked and cynical self-aggrandizement that caused the backlash by Dr. Samuel Johnson (17091784), who claimed that the letters instilled in readers "the morals of a strumpet with the manners of a dancing master." Rather than simply reflecting the privileged if arbitrary codes of the aristocratic class, however, manners were also seen in the eighteenth century as reinforcing stability in society, with Edmund Burke (17291797) stating famously that "Manners are more important than laws. Upon them the laws depend," and John Locke (16321704) similarly connecting good conduct with the stability and health of a democratic polity.

The art of social decorum nevertheless suffered further reputational damage with the Romantic movement and its more rough-hewn ideals of authenticity. Not only was society itself perceived by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and (17121778) others as a realm of corrupt artifice opposed to more truthful nature, but they considered that the manners on which that society depends expedite the process of self-alienation. At the same time, the nineteenth century gave rise in England and America to a surging middle class and a new ethic of the sentimental and domestic that allowed ideals of behavior to take on new forms and vibrancy. Where before etiquette had been associated with the aristocratic class, it now became diffused among a broader, albeit still privileged, middle class. To know the rulesthat coffee was not to be served at the dinner table, that introductions were to be handled in a particular way, that one took one's place in a quadrille at the front rather than the back of the ballroommarked one's place in the world as being on the inside of social privilege; to be otherwise was to be "vulgar" or "common" and coldly cast out.

In the New World, Americans' manners, such as hastily eating (or "devouring") their food, particularly galled the English, with Charles Dickens (18121870) describing Washington, D.C., as the "headquarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva" shooting forth from the mouths of "not always good marksmen." Nevertheless, Americans, and particularly women, proliferated as authors of etiquette manuals, which counseled on housework, child-raising, personal grooming, and marriage as well as entering polite society. In this regard America undertook its own "civilizing process," trafficking in lifestyle aspirations under the stern but gentle injunctions of an Emily Post, a Miss Manners, or, in its postmodern incarnation, a Martha Stewart.

See also Class ; Everyday Life ; Tradition .


Arditi, Jorge. A Genealogy of Manners: Transformations of Social Relations in France and England from the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1998.

Aresty, Esther. The Best Behavior: The Course of Good Mannersfrom Antiquity to the PresentAs Seen through Courtesy and Etiquette Books. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.

Ariès, Philippe, and Georges Duby, eds. A History of Private Life. 5 vols. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 19871991.

Bryson, Anna. From Courtesy to Civility: Changing Codes of Conduct in Early Modern England. Oxford: Clarendon, 1998.

Elias, Norbert. The Civilizing Process. Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Oxford and Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1994.

Sarah Covington

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Models of polite behavior appear throughout Buddhist literature, as when disciples of the Buddha bow and circumambulate the Buddha, or when preachers of the dharma are treated with respect. While the Vinaya Pitaka is the scriptural source of guidance on monastic discipline, there is also a much larger written and oral Vinaya tradition, consisting of commentaries, digests, and ad hoc instructions. Whereas Vinaya texts define the fundamental nature of the saṄgha, the term etiquette tends to apply to less crucial, and yet more pervasive, rule-governed behavior: posture when standing, the direction of the gaze, sequences of seniority in the dining hall, how to hold chopsticks, terms of polite address, how to bow. In daily life, this attention to detail does not always have a scriptural basis, and etiquette varies widely by region, time period, sect, and even from monastery to monastery.

Etiquette is not only a matter of interpersonal relations, but also governs maintenance of the material objects of Buddhism, such as robes, bowls, icons, and monastery boundaries. Changes in behavior serve to demarcate sacred space, for example, when monks in Southeast Asia roll down their robes to cover both arms when they exit the monastery, and roll them up to expose one arm when they return. Walking through doors is also an occasion for ritual. In China, the act of entering is governed by a ritual code, and behavior is modified according to one's location inside or outside. One is careful to step over the "bridge" or "saddle" of the doorway, which in some cases can be quite a high step. If the front façade has three large doors, one enters through those on the sides, not by the central door. When entering by the left of the three gates, one should put the left foot in first; if through the right gate, the right foot is first. In some cases, shoes are removed or changed. Stepping into the temple space, the first act should be a bow. The Jiaojie xinxue biqiu xinghu lüyi (Admonitions for Novice Monks on the Behavioral Norms of the Vinaya), a guide to monastic etiquette by the Tang dynasty monk Daoxuan (596–667), instructs: "When entering the monastery gate, bow, and then kneel, and recite the customary praises to the Buddha…. Gather up your sitting-cloth, join palmsand bend the body. Then, with a serious expression, walk slowly on one side of the walkway, looking ahead." When leaving, "perform obeisance according to the correct method: three bows before the Buddha, one bow as you reach the gate, one more bow outside the gate. When there are a few monks, bow once to each in order. When there are many monks, bow to the group three times." When circumambulating an image or sacred site, one should move clockwise with palms together, and with one's right shoulder to the object of reverence, possibly with the right shoulder bared.

The most common Buddhist polite gesture is the añjali, also known as the namaskāra or namas te, (Japanese, Gasshō; Thai, wai). The palms of the hands are pressed together in front of the body and the head or torso leans forward to a greater or lesser degree. In many cases, the height of the hands indicates the actor's perceived or intended social position vis-à-vis the other person: The hands are held higher when gesturing toward people "higher-up" than oneself. In an añjali to a fully ordained monk the hands are usually held at the forehead, compared to in front of the chin when offered to most laity. When an adult offers an añjali to return the greeting of a child, the hands are held at heart level.

In some parts of Asia, particular devotion may be shown by placing one's hands on the feet of a monk. As with the spatial distinction of height, the timing of this gesture also matters: The subordinate initiates the gesture.

Conversely, the fact that monks do not bow to laity (not even to the king) is a means of asserting monkhood as an ideal social order outside of the world. Conflicts of etiquette have occurred, such as the persistent debates over monks not bowing to their own parents or to the Chinese emperor. These debates brought Buddhist and Confucian models of etiquette into direct conflict. The virulence of these debates indicates the importance of etiquette, as arguments for and against drew upon fundamental pillars of Buddhist or Confucian doctrine.

Members of the ordained community continue to perform obeisance to each other, however, and Buddhist scriptures encode the orthodox hierarchy: All nuns, no matter how senior, bow to all monks, no matter how junior. Novices bow to the fully ordained, and juniors bow to seniors. Seniority is measured in "dharma years," that is, the number of Lenten seasons since full ordination.

When the many particular rules have been internalized, the intended result is a dignified demeanor (īryāpatha; Chinese, weiyi), a kind of self-possession of the body and its robes. Buddhist monastic guides reveal an elaborate regime of bodily control, especially a mindful control of the hands; there are rules against flapping the arms around, standing with arms akimbo, carelessly scratching or blowing one's nose when in the presence of superiors, tickling people, and so on. Etiquette should also be controlled at meal times; the PrĀtimokṢa (the list of monastic precepts, a set of vows assumed as part of the ordination process) includes rules against, for example, licking the fingers, scraping the bowl with fingers, or sticking the tongue out. The activities of seeing, pointing, and touching are also strongly rule-governed. The mastery of etiquette is part of a more encompassing effort to mindfully discipline the entire body, as well as speech and mind.

In some of its modern American versions, Buddhism seems opposed to any emphasis on etiquette, standing instead for spontaneity and an egalitarian rejection of all distinctions. Indeed, Chan school discourse has played with violations of etiquette. However, the nondualist rejection of distinctions and the suspension of the assumed norms are only meaningful in terms of shared social norms. Buddhist monasteries are the sites of intensified rather than inverted etiquette, and some highly refined forms of social behavior, such as the tea ceremony, have often spread through the medium of Buddhism.

See also:Precepts; Robes and Clothing


Buswell, Robert E., Jr. The Zen Monastic Experience. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Dōgen. Dōgen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of the Eihei Shingi, tr. Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura. Albany: State University of New York, 1996.

Hurvitz, Leon. " 'Render Unto Caesar' in Early Chinese Buddhism." Sino-Indian Studies (Liebenthal Festschrift) 5, no. 3–4 (1957): 81–114.

Prip-Møller, Johannes. Chinese Buddhist Monasteries: Their Plan and Its Function as a Setting for Buddhist Monastic Life. London: Oxford University Press, 1937.

Eric Reinders

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ETIQUETTE (Heb. דֶּרֶךְ־אֶרֶץ, derekh ereẓ), the proper conduct of man at home and in society. The sages demanded of the Jew, particularly the scholar, good manners in all his activities. The rules of *derekh ereẓ are assembled in the tractates Avot, Derekh ereẓ Rabbah, and Derekh ereẓ Zuta, and are scattered throughout the Talmud and the Midrashim. A substantial number of them are set forth in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De'ot.

The rules of etiquette covered every aspect of man's conduct, including the most seemingly insignificant. Only a few of the most important rules are given here.


A man should speak pleasantly with everyone (Yoma 86a) and, Maimonides adds: "When speaking he should neither shout nor scream nor raise his voice excessively." When he meets his fellow he should be the first to extend greetings. As an example the Talmud cites the instance of Johanan b. Zakkai, whom no one ever preceded in extending greeting (Ber. 17a). Since, in the heat of argument, a man is liable to interrupt his fellow and stubbornly assert his own opinion, even after being convinced that the other is right, the sages laid down rules for the conduct of an argument: not to speak before one who is greater in wisdom, nor to interrupt the speech of another, not to be hasty in answering, to ask only relevant questions and to answer appropriately, to speak on the first point first and on the last point last, to say "I have not heard" when he has no tradition to that effect, to acknowledge the truth (Avot 5:7).


A scholar should not carry himself stiffly, with his neck outstretched… nor walk mincingly as do women and haughty people… nor run in a public place like a madman, nor bend his body as if he is a hunchback, but he should look downward, as when standing in prayer, and walk in the street like a man going about his business (Maim., Yad, De'ot 5:8).


The Talmud regularizes expenditure on food and clothing by the principle: A man should always spend on food less than his means allow, and clothe himself in accordance with his means (Ḥul. 84b). The sages were most particular that their clothing should be becoming and clean, even to the extent of declaring that any scholar upon whose garment a stain is found is worthy of death (Shab. 114a). Maimonides applies the doctrine of the Golden Mean to clothing: "He should not wear clothes, of gold and purple, for instance, fit for a king, and at which everyone stares, nor clothes worn by the poor that put to shame those wearing them, but he should wear modest dress" (De'ot 5:9).

Eating and Drinking

In eating and drinking, too, he should not indulge in extremes, but content himself with the minimum necessary for health. He should eat only in his own home, at his table, but not in the market place, for "he who eats in the market place is like a dog" (Kid. 40b). A scholar should not eat standing, nor lick his fingers, for this is the way of gluttons (dez 5). Gulping one's drink in a single draught is a sign of greediness (Beẓah 25b). One should not drink out of a cup and then give it to his fellow, for not all people are alike, and sensitive people are particular about this (Tosef., Ber. 5:9).

Treatment of Wife and Children

The rabbis were extremely particular about conduct in the family circle. The responsibility for this was placed primarily on the husband and father, to whom they gave the following directives: "A man should always observe the honor due to his wife, because blessings rest on a man's home only on account of his wife." "A man should always be careful not to wrong his wife (with words), for being given to tears, she is easily hurt." He should consult his wife in all matters affecting the home: If your wife is short, bend down and listen to her words (bm 59a). They enjoined the head of the household to be indulgent, not to take offense, and not to terrorize his household, so as to avoid quarrels (Ta'an. 20b; Git. 6b).

Personal Relations

Most controversies are due to the tendency to ascribe bad motives to the words and actions of others. As a result the sages urged: "Let the honor of your neighbor be as dear to you as your own" (Avot 2:10), and "Love all men and honor them, and forgo your will for that of your neighbor" (dez 1). Good and worthy intentions may fail if they are implemented at the wrong moment. Hence, the rabbis counseled: "Do not pacify your fellow in the hour of his anger; nor comfort him when his dead one lies before him" (Avot 4:18). One should not present oneself to one's friend, or even to the members of his household, at an inconvenient time: "Do not enter your own house suddenly, and all the more, your neighbor's house" (Pes. 112a) counseled Akiva. The concern of the rabbis in this matter is reflected in the statement, "Let all men learn good manners from the Omnipresent, who stood at the entrance to Eden and called out to Adam, as it says, 'The Lord God called to Adam, saying, "Where art thou"'" (der 5). Many modern and medieval ethical works praise Derekh ereẓ, adherence to its precepts, and, at the same time, stress the duty of other strictures to those mentioned in the Talmud.


Krauss, Tal Arch, 3 (1912), 2ff.; A. Kohn, in: Ben-Chananja, 2 (1859), 66–67, 167–8, 210–1, 258–64 (Ger.); J. Friedmann, Der gesellschaftliche Verkehr und die Umgangsformen in talmudischer Zeit (1914); M. Higger, Massekhtot Ze'irot (1929), 1–7; idem, Massekhtot Derekh ereẓ (1935), 11–18 (English section); A. Cohen, Everyman's Talmud (1932), 168–266; C.G. Montefiore and H. Loewe, A Rabbinical Anthology (1938), 451–523; G. Friedlander, Laws and Customs of Israel (1927), passim.

[Abraham Arzi]

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et·i·quette / ˈetikit; -ˌket/ • n. the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group.

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etiquette prescribed or conventional code of behaviour XVIII. — F. étiquette, the primary sense of which is repr. by TICKET.

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