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Aside from all this gadding about, I've spent large parts of the last week visiting Susan Tiner's blogs, Style Made by Hand and her old one Financial Organising Dreams. I feel as though I've returned to university, being introduced to so many ideas I've never before considered. Some of the concepts strike my simple mind as fairly subtle, so I feel a bit out of my depth, but I still enjoy trying to understand even if I don't quite. She writes about many things that interest me: sewing, finding one's own style, her experience of growing up in the 60s and 70s (she's two years younger than I), genealogy and the mysteries of family stories. She also writes about and links to articles about social class in America and about American values about money. One of Susan's posts about Money Taboo - Filthy Lucre was particularly interesting as it referred to Emily Post's book on Etiquette from the 1920's, a glimpse into another time and way of life that I always find fun, and because I'd just read about Carolyn's having second thoughts about writing about the cost of the outfits she was sewing.
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Reading in Post's book about the rules of etiquette around the custom of leaving calling cards made me think of this recent exchange of comments on blogs. Oddly, however, I must admit that when I opened Blogger one morning to find 8!!! comments to be 'moderated' my first thought was to wonder if I was in trouble! Had I offended someone who was now haranguing me or had I attracted the unwanted attentions of a persistent spammer? Very happily they were all nice comments from real bloggers, returning my visits, just as returning visits, with the appropriate coding of cards, was done by some in the past.
The idea of social class and the British idea of 'knowing one's place' came to my mind some time back when I found myself reacting negatively to a comment left on a blog I read fairly regularly. It seemed to me at the time that the commenter was being sniffy and dismissive about the blogger's frugal ways. The blogger didn't seem to take offence, so I thought I shouldn't either, but I struggled with it all. The commenter writes a blog of a completely different genre, about luxury items and such. The comment seemed inapproriate in the same way that any lecture I might leave about being frugal on a blog devoted to celebrating the more exuberent end of consumerism would be. It struck me that if one is going to cross class or culture online, one should be extra considerate of the different viewpoints. I found myself mentally muttering about 'folks knowing their place'! Isn't blogland crackers sometimes!? Or maybe it's just me being a bit mental.
Of course the widespread opportunity to improve 'one's place' is why many Brits say that the class system has gone and why some American's don't believe there is a class system in the US; I'm not so sure about that now. The New York Times articles on Class Matters are quite revealing. (One can read up to 20 articles for free per month. I'm looking forward to picking up my reading again in February!)
Anyhow, reverting to an age old love, the origin of words, I found this explanation in Post's book about the source of the term etiquette, yet another reason why the French seem to exert so much influence on our ideas of elegant living.
To the French we owe the word etiquette, and it is amusing to discover its origin in the commonplace familiar warning—"Keep off the grass." It happened in the reign of Louis XIV, when the gardens of Versailles were being laid out, that the master gardener, an old Scotsman, was sorely tried because his newly seeded lawns were being continually trampled upon. To keep trespassers off, he put up warning signs or tickets—etiquettes—on which was indicated the path along which to pass. But the courtiers paid no attention to these directions and so the determined Scot complained to the King in such convincing manner that His Majesty issued an edict commanding everyone at Court to "keep within the etiquettes." Gradually the term came to cover all the rules for correct demeanor and deportment in court circles; and thus through the centuries it has grown into use to describe the conventions sanctioned for the purpose of smoothing personal contacts and developing tact and good manners in social intercourse. With the decline of feudal courts and the rise of empires of industry, much of the ceremony of life was discarded for plain and less formal dealing. Trousers and coats supplanted doublets and hose, and the change in costume was not more extreme than the change in social ideas. The court ceased to be the arbiter of manners, though the aristocracy of the land remained the high exemplar of good breeding.
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And just so I can have pretty illustrations to attach, I've visited eBay to share photos of calling card cases which, surprisingly, are more common on eBay.com than on eBay.co.uk.