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In Honor of Emily Post's Birthday, Four Old Etiquette Rules That Still Apply

In Honor of Emily Post's Birthday, Four Old Etiquette Rules That Still Apply

Emily Post, legendary etiquette rules-writer, would be 142 years old today. Born on October 27, 1872 in Baltimore, she rose to nationwide fame in 1922 with her book, “Etiquette: In Society, In Business, In Politics, and At Home.” It was a bestseller and became the final word on polite social conduct, its topics ranging from “The Country House and Its Hospitality,” to “The Clothes of a Gentleman.”

When Post was growing up, she was told that well-bred women shouldn’t work. By becoming the nation’s expert on manners as well as a self-made career woman with books, a syndicated newspaper column, and a network radio program, she defied the societal constraints of the time. 

Even though some of her firm rules have lost their place in 2014, there are a few Emily Post pieces of etiquette that ring true even a hundred years later. Here are five of Emily Post’s timeless rules that might help your next awkward meeting or strange encounter. They might also make you laugh.

As Post concluded her book, “If we can keep these attributes and add finish and understanding and perfect taste in living and thinking, we need not dwell on the Golden Age that is past, but believe in the Golden Age that is sure to be.” Go forth in refinement!

1. “Never interlard your conversation with foreign words or phrases when you can possibly translate them into English; and the occasions when our mother tongue will not serve are extremely rare.”

We all have fashion friends who say “ciao” and “bisous!” And we all know it is very annoying.

handshake ball

2. “Who does not dislike a “boneless” hand extended as though it were a spray of sea-weed, or a miniature boiled pudding? It is equally annoying to have one’s hand clutched aloft in grotesque affectation and shaken violently sideways, as though it were being used to clean a spot out of the atmosphere. What woman does not wince at the viselike grasp that cuts her rings into her flesh and temporarily paralyzes every finger?”

Seriously, practice this. Dead fish handshake is the worst. Also beware of the handshake ball (h/t Fast Company):

handshake ball

3. "Lack of consideration for those who in any capacity serve you, is always an evidence of ill-breeding, as well as of inexcusable selfishness." 

The man who yells at the taxi driver or the woman who brusquely dismisses a waiter is very near to scum in Emily Post’s eyes. Don’t be that person.

handshake ball

4. "Life, whether social or business, is a bank in which you deposit certain funds of character, intellect and heart; or other funds of egotism, hard-heartedness and unconcern; or deposit—nothing! And the bank honors your deposit, and no more. In other words, you can draw nothing out but what you have put in."

Many of the world’s most successful people are simply committed to service. Take Oprah as an example. Figure out what you want from the world, and then give it instead. 

handshake ball

For more Emily Post, read her book via Bartleby.