Wednesday, 7 February 2007

ANTICANT IS STILL AWKWARD

Well, if he can’t even keep out of step with the Awkward Squad for long, he must be!

It’s intriguing to find Zola posting today about ‘netiquette’. As I’ve remarked before, even those who say there are no rules on the internet are thereby stating a rule. Nothing exists except by agreement, whether legally imposed or voluntarily observed. My own preferred way in the burrow and elsewhere is to be as genial and benign as I’m capable of, stick to the discussion theme, and avoid ill-natured personal scraps.

‘Netiquette’, I gather from the indispensable Wikipedia and Google, has been around since the early days of the Net and has been classically expounded by a lady called Virginia Shea, whose on-line book of that name reveals her as being in the best Universal Nanny tradition. Indeed, it reminded me that I am the proud possessor of The Book of Etiquette, “the complete standard work of reference on social usages”, compiled “from the most authoritative sources” [unspecified] by Lady Troubridge, and published in the mid-1920s. Etiquette, Lady T sagely observes, is a matter of the spirit and not merely the letter; “a true knowledge and understanding of social laws will indicate when they can be put aside with impunity in obedience to some greater law, such as the law of kindness, should a special occasion indicate that politeness will be better honoured in the breach than in the observance.” Yes, indeed!

With this precept in mind, the intrepid lady proceeds to set out in great detail how the Polite Person should behave in almost every conceivable circumstance. I cite, at random, the section on “receiving gentlemen in hotels”:

“A gentleman, calling on a lady staying in an hotel, makes the same enquiry as if he were calling at a private house. ‘Is Miss So-and-so in?’ He then gives his name to the clerk, who will either telephone to the lady’s room, or send a servant to enquire if she is in, should there be no installation of bedroom-telephones in the hotel.

“The lady should not refuse to see a visitor without offering some excuse. If she is expecting the visitor, she should be waiting in the drawing-room or lounge…it is quite permissible for the lady to send a message to the gentleman asking him to wait if she is not ready to see visitors….The lady may wear a hat or not, just as she pleases, following the rule she would observe in her own drawing room. For a woman to receive a man in her bedroom at an hotel is to break an important convention, and should never be done [presumably with or without a hat!]. It places both in a false position, and is a serious blunder in hotel etiquette.” Not any more…

This brings vividly to mind the Thurber cartoon of the nervous-looking little man saying to the scantily dressed young woman in the hotel foyer: “You wait here, and I’ll bring the etchings down.”

It also recalls a story of my parents’ high-spirited bull-terrier puppy, Bonzo, who when taking my Father for a walk [rather than vice-versa] jumped over a hedge and reappeared with what looked like a furry rabbit in his mouth. A flustered youth then jumped up on the other side of the hedge and said indignantly: ”I say, your dog has pinched my girl’s hat!” Those were the days when no respectable young lady went out hatless, and my Mother had to provide a substitute to enable the young woman to return home with her respectability intact [whatever else wasn’t].

So wear your best bonnet, please, lavenderblue, on your next visit to the burrow, or the Beadle will be on your track.

3 comments:

lavenderblue said...

Anticant _ I LOVE you !!
and was just looking through some very old mags when I saw your post............
Oddly enough, a very nice gentleman on the phone the other night, seriously, just lonely, wanted a chat, was so unhappy about the way women dress nowadays.....bellies and bums showing, and not decent ones either, and he was bemoaning the loss of 'frocks, cocktail hours, gloves and hats.'
Oh, by the way, he was 35 years old....
He wanted Style back..........
He got me..............( ! )

zola said...

Lavender : You ARE style.

Anticant : You are style.

Good shipmates you are.

trousers said...

I'd only just heard you were leaving us, and now you're back - a good thing, obviously.

I shall doff my cap to you, and leave my knickers where they are...