Manners were spread by the King, but they are definitely not just for royalty!

When, how, and by whom were manners invented?

Manners as we know them today came from a very, very long time ago when battles and wars were commonplace. A form of manners developed from the necessity of showing others that we do not want to fight.  We used certain peaceful gestures and signs such as salutations, doing homage, etc., to show other tribes or factions that we wish to live peaceably with them. In old English, however, the definition of manners was basically the same thing as our modern definition of morals.  Either way, the meaning of manners seems to come back to mean “decent behavior” in one form or the other.

Much later in western civilization, the word manners began to be used interchangeably with the word etiquette; and though they are basically the same, the slight difference is that etiquette refers to a ‘set’ of manners.  It is a French word that means “ticket” and it is pronounced etta-kut.  Back during Louis XIV’s reign (1661-1715), French lords and nobles were given “etiquettes” (tickets) to tell them where to stand, where not to go (onto the grass!), and what to do, etc. when they came to Versailles Palace representing their states.

Our idea of modern etiquette can seem like a bunch of rules of dos and don’ts, but really, it can be as simple as saying please and thank you, showing respect for our country, and not using hurtful words.  It can be as easy as knowing that you should show good sportsmanship and honor your father and mother.  It is as basic as thinking before you act and speak.  Manners are the outward expression of what is on the inside of you- what is in your heart and mind.  You manners show others what kind of character you have.

Manners are actually very useful and if you study the origins (the beginnings) of most of them, you will find that they actually make a lot of sense!  That’s right: they are based on intelligent and sensible reasonings.  One thing is certain, however: manners should never be used to exclude others.  “If you ever find yourself in a situation in which following a formal [etiquette] rule would be manifestly unkind, forget it, and be kind instead.” said Eleanor Roosevelt, in her book “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Book of Common Sense Etiquette”.

Fundamentally, etiquette is and always has been about respect for others, whether it is for our parents, friends, teachers, or even strangers; it is a way of looking at the world. Using manners is at the most basic level a reflection of the way we feel about ourselves.  Manners start in your head, but if you keep them in your heart, as well, you will never embarrass yourself nor will you ever hurt or embarrass someone else. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Manners are the happy way of doing things…” I think that says why manners are important best.