A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Thursday, January 10, 2008

School for Non-U Scoundrels - Etiquette Lessons in the Lounge!

Brighton College has decided that its first year pupils will need a good grounding in social etiquette. Headmaster Richard Cairns thinks it is time his pupils were taught a few lessons in good manners after learning that employers were dismayed by the numbers of undergraduates who were not equipped for the business world. Apparently they will be instructed how to iron a shirt properly, dance the waltz, when to take off a jacket or go to the lavatory, who to talk to during which courses at the dinner table and other finer points of etiquette.

It was Nancy Mitford, in the 1950's, who jumped at the idea of Professor Alan Ross. He coined the terms U and non-U in an article on the difference that social class makes to English language usage. Nancy Mitford took it all to a higher plain.

The boys and girls of Brighton College are in a bind, though, I feel. If they are the only ones mugging up on such things, how will they react to those unfortunates they meet who have not had such lessons. Also, the headmaster must move in exalted circles within the world of business. Quite a lot of the bosses have stand-up rows with senior colleagues, cuss and curse, and generally behave with a modicum of etiquette.

It also shows the changing times we live in. For a British public school to be offering such tuition reveals that the parents and guardians are not passing on such information. I can remember way back in the 60's whilst at a similar school not that far away a boy reprimanded me for mentioning that my mother had bought tea bags. His inclination was for leaf tea out of a caddy.

I told my mother. "Tea bags!" she exclaimed. "What's wrong with tea bags?" And what do we find as we come up to date. Highly-priced tea bags in the likes of Harrods and Fortnum & Mason for the discerning tea drinker!

Etiquette should be about good manners, not affectations or judging our neighbours over wallpaper. However, it is perfectly OK to retain, or obtain, social graces and speech habits. I still say lavatory, drawing room, napkin and sofa. Oh, and I always ask if there's a pudding!


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