Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Sorry! The English and their Manners by Henry Hitchings

I picked this book up because it seemed pretty interesting and I’m all about reading about England right now.

Sorry! The English and their Manners is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a chronological exploration of the development of manners in the English, starting with manners in medieval Britain.

Although the book is supposed to be all about the English, the fact that the English have been influenced by different cultures, like the Italians, means that the book also touches on manners in different countries as well. There are also two chapters where American manners are discussed and a few more where they’re mentioned. So while this book is primarily about the English, it’s not exclusively about them.

Something I found interesting (in a TIL manner) is that the Victorians had an “aversion to wasted words”, which was in turn “part of a new science of conversation”. Thus the shortening of “I am sorry” to just “sorry”.

I also liked the discussion about manners at the end of the book, where the author raises the possibility that instead of manners being in decline, the world has simply become more complex. For example, people in the past didn’t have to deal with the complexities of internet etiquette, like if you have to accept your boss’s Facebook friend request.

While this isn’t a book on etiquette in England, it’s an interesting look and discussion on how manners have evolved. If you’re interested in the lesser-considered aspects of history, you may want to take a look at this.

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