Quotations by:
    Martin, Judith


We are all born charming, frank, and spontaneous and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1978-04-23)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 2 "Basic Civilization," "Concerning Children" (1983).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-23
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In a fit of exasperation, Miss Manners once demanded of a six-year-old person how it could be so childish and was forced to admit the justice of its reply, “I’m a child.”

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1978-04-23)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 “Basic Civilization," "Concerning Children" (1983)
 
Added on 9-Oct-23 | Last updated 9-Oct-23
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Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1978-10-08)
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On interactions between the general public and picketers, though she has used the phrase on other occasions.

Reprinted in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 "Basic Civilization," "Common Courtesy for All Ages" (1983).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 2-Jan-24
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In artful boasting, one states all the information necessary to impress people, but keeps the facts decently clothed in the language of humility. Useful approaches include Disbelief, Fear and Manic Elation. For some reason, these are considered to be more attractive human emotions than justifiable pride or self-satisfaction. Probably because they are not as much fun.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1979-11-24)
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Collected in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 "Basic Civilization," "Social Intercourse" (1983).
 
Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 30-Jan-24
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Miss Manners’ meager arsenal consists only of the withering look, the insistent and repeated request, the cold voice, the report up the chain of command, and the tilted nose. Also the ability to dismiss inferior behavior from her mind as coming from inferior people. You will perhaps point out that she will never know the joy of delivering a well-deserved sock in the chops. True — but she will never inspire one either.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1980-05-08)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-May-23
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It is wrong to wear diamonds before dusk, except on one’s marriage rings. Before, after, and during breakfast, luncheon and dinner, it is vulgar to wear a mixture of colored precious stones. It is always a comfort to know that so many things one can’t afford to do anyway are vulgar.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1980-12-28)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, "Answers to Questions Nobody Asked" (1983).
 
Added on 31-Oct-23 | Last updated 31-Oct-23
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There is no known correct way to eat pistachio nuts. Nevertheless, they are delicious. The pistachio nut must therefore be Nature’s way of teaching us self-control. If so, it doesn’t work.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1980-12-28)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 11 "Answers to Questions Nobody Asked" (1983).
 
Added on 11-Dec-23 | Last updated 11-Dec-23
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There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection is the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1981-08-15)
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Collected in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 4 "Rites de Passage," "Modern Romance" (1983).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 19-Mar-24
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Traditionally, a luncheon is a lunch that takes an eon.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1982-04-18)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium, Part 6 "Genuine Social Life," "Social Occasions" (1989). Often incorrectly attributed to Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1983).
 
Added on 21-Aug-23 | Last updated 21-Aug-23
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Treat your employees as if they were writing a book about you.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (2003-08-17)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-May-23
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: What is the proper way to eat potato chips?

GENTLE READER: With a knife and fork. A fruit knife and an oyster fork, to be specific. Good heavens, what is the world coming to? Miss Manners does not mind explaining the finer points of gracious living, but she feels that anyone without the sense to pick up a potato chip and stuff it in their face should probably not be running around loose on the streets.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1979-01-06)
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Reprinted in Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 "Basic Civilization," "Table Manners" (1983).
 
Added on 18-Jul-23 | Last updated 18-Jul-23
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Let us make a special effort to learn to stop communicating with each other, so that we can have some conversation.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Miss Manners,” syndicated column (1979-09-01)

Reprinted in Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 "Basic Civilization," "Social Intercourse" (1983).

Sometimes misattributed to Mark Twain. Often paraphrased (e.g., "Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation").

More discussion of this quotation: Let Us Make a Special Effort to Stop Communicating with Each Other, So We Can Have Some Conversation – Quote Investigator®

 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Jul-23
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Teacup formality is a part of etiquette, but an infinitesimal part. How about fast-food informality? That is as much a part of etiquette as the teacup. It is all of our behavior and not simply the formal occasion behavior. And, in fact, the more informal the circumstances, usually the more you need etiquette.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 30-May-23 | Last updated 30-May-23
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Etiquette is about all of human social behavior. Behavior is regulated by law when etiquette breaks down or when the stakes are high — violations of life, limb, property, and so on. Barring that, etiquette is a little social contract we make that we well restrain some of our more provocative impulses in return for living more or less harmoniously in a community.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 9-May-23 | Last updated 30-May-23
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If you want to go off by yourself and be a hermit, you can do whatever you want. But if you want interaction with other people, then by definition you have to buy into the social contract and restrain some of your behavior some of the time.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 5-Jun-23 | Last updated 5-Jun-23
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If you are required by society to be polite — of course it’s a voluntary system policed only by public opinion — you run into having to have equal respect for people who are not as rich and powerful as you. More than that, because of the concept of noblesse oblige, you are required to treat them even better. So etiquette is the greatest friend of the powerless; without it, might makes right.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 20-Jun-23 | Last updated 20-Jun-23
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Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without comment is a wonderful social grace.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
(Attributed)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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If you can’t be kind, at least be vague.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
(Attributed)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

Martin - good qualities - wist_info quote

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
(Attributed)
 
Added on 6-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-19
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Charming villains have always had a decided social advantage over well-meaning people who chew with their mouths open.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “In the Quest for Equality, Civilization Itself Is Maligned” (1985)
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Originally published in The New Republic in 1984.
 
Added on 3-Aug-21 | Last updated 15-Apr-24
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The charge is often made against etiquette that it is artificial. Yes, indeed, it is. Civilization is artificial. When people extoll the virtues of naturalness, honesty, informality, intimacy, and creativity — watch out. Honesty has come to mean the privilege of insulting you to your face without expecting redress, and creativity that it is wrong to interfere with a child who is destroying your possessions. It is apparently natural behavior to treat the sick, the disabled, and the bereaved with curiosity and distaste, but it is also highly uncivilized.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “In the Quest for Equality, Civilization Itself Is Maligned” (1985)
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Originally published in The New Republic in 1984.
 
Added on 29-Apr-24 | Last updated 29-Apr-24
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The natural approach to human relations presumes that to know any person well enough is to love him, and that, therefore, the only human problem is a communication problem. It refuses to admit the possibility that people might be separated by basic, deeply held, genuinely irreconcilable differences — philosophical, political, or religious. Thus, the effort to trivialize etiquette as being a barrier to the happy mingling of souls, actually trivializes intellectual, emotional, and spiritual convictions by characterizing any difference between one person’s and another’s as no more than a simple misunderstanding, easily solved by frank exchanges or orchestrated “encounters.”

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “In the Quest for Equality, Civilization Itself Is Maligned” (1985)
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Originally published in The New Republic in 1984.
 
Added on 6-May-24 | Last updated 6-May-24
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We are all born rude. No infant has ever appeared yet with the grace to understand how inconsiderate it is to disturb others in the middle of the night.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “In the Quest for Equality, Civilization Itself Is Maligned” (1985)
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Added on 10-Jun-24 | Last updated 10-Jun-24
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Like language, a code of manners can be used with more or less skill, for laudable or for evil purposes, to express a great variety of ideas and emotions. In itself, it carries no moral value, but ignorance in use of this tool is not a sign of virtue.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “Of Etiquette as Language, Weapon, Custom, and Craft” (1985)
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Added on 13-May-24 | Last updated 13-May-24
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The rationale that etiquette should be eschewed because it fosters inequality does not ring true in a society that openly admits to a feverish interest in the comparative status-conveying qualities of sneakers. Manners are available to all, for free.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “On Etiquette as Language, Weapon, Custom, and Craft” (1985)
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Added on 22-Apr-24 | Last updated 22-Apr-24
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One reason that the task of inventing manners is so difficult is that etiquette is folk custom, and people have emotional ties to the forms of their youth. That is why there is such hostility between generations in times of rapid change; their manners being different, each feels affronted by the other, taking even the most surface choices for challenges.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Common Courtesy, “On Etiquette as Language, Weapon, Custom, and Craft” (1985)
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Added on 4-Jun-24 | Last updated 4-Jun-24
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Indeed, Miss Manners has come to believe that the basic political division in this country is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who believe that they should have a say in the love lives of strangers and those who do not.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners Rescues Civilization
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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Miss Manners has come to believe that the basic political division in the society is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who believe that they should have a say in the love lives of strangers and those who do not.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners Rescues Civilization, ch. 5 (1996)
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Added on 3-Aug-22 | Last updated 3-Aug-22
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The invention of the teenager was a mistake, in Miss Manners’ opinion. […] Once you identify a period of life in which people have few restrictions and, at the same time, few responsibilities — they get to stay out late but don’t have to pay taxes — naturally nobody wants to live any other way.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide for the the Turn-of-the-Millennium, Part 2 “Home Life,” “Parents and Children” (1989)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Mar-24
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: What should I say when I am introduced to a homosexual “couple”?

GENTLE READER: “How do you do?” “How do you do?”

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, ch. 3 “Basic Civilization” (1983)
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Added on 26-Jun-23 | Last updated 26-Jun-23
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If you put together all the ingredients that naturally attract children — sex, violence, revenge, spectacle and vigorous noise — what you have is grand opera.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 9 “Advanced Civilization,” “Play” (1983)
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Added on 7-Aug-23 | Last updated 7-Aug-23
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When Miss Manners observes people behaving rudely, she never steps in to correct them. She behaves politely to them, and then goes home and snickers about them afterward. That is what the well-bred person does.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Introduction (1983)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Feb-24
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The proper use of embarrassment is as a conscience of manners. As your conscience might trouble you if you do anything immoral, your sense of embarrassment should be activated if you do anything unmannerly. As conscience should come from within, so should embarrassment. Hot tingles and flushes are quite proper when they arise from your own sense of having violated your own standards, inadvertently or advertently, but Miss Manners hereby absolves everyone from feeling any embarrassment deliberately imposed by others.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Introduction (1983)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Feb-24
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Miss Manners corrects only upon request. Then she does it from a distance, with no names attached, and no personal relationship, however distant, between the corrector and the correctee. She does not search out errors like a policeman leaping out of a speed trap. When Miss Manners observes people behaving rudely, she behaves politely to them, and then goes home and snickers about them afterward.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Introduction (1983)
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Added on 23-Oct-23 | Last updated 23-Oct-23
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People who put slipcovers, doilies, plastic protectors, and cellophane on everything good that they own rarely live to see an occasion so good that all these covers are removed.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 1 “Introduction,” “Some Thoughts on the Impulse Rude” (1983)
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Added on 4-Dec-23 | Last updated 4-Dec-23
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Miss Manners doubts that there is anything in the world like an elegantly dressed Bostonian lurching across the room and diving face first into a bowl of guacamole dip while simultaneously disengaging her bodice from her bosom. Therefore, Miss Manners has a wee bit of trouble preparing a general rule for dealing with this eventuality.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 2 “Intermediate Civilization,” “Procedure” (1983)
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Added on 28-Aug-23 | Last updated 28-Aug-23
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: Can you tell me a tactful way of letting a friend know that she is getting too fat?

GENTLE READER: Can you tell Miss Manners a tactful reason for wanting to do so?

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 3 “Basic Civilization,” “Common Courtesy for All Ages” (1983)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Mar-24
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DEAR MISS MANNERS: How about Easter? I suppose you have etiquette rules that apply to Easter Day?

GENTLE READER: Certainly, and when the Day of Judgment comes, Miss Manners will have etiquette rules to apply to that, as well.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Part 9 “Advanced Civilization,” “Play” (1983)
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Added on 11-Apr-22 | Last updated 8-Apr-24
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The whole country wants civility. Why don’t we have it? It doesn’t cost anything. No federal funding, no legislation is involved. One answer is the unwillingness to restrain oneself. Everybody wants other people to be polite to them, but they want the freedom of not having to be polite to others.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
In “Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 24-Jan-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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The other part of it is [the belief that] if we just totally opened our souls to one another, we would love one another and get along. This trivializes the fact that people have deep and legitimately-held differences. People think, mistakenly, that etiquette means you have to suppress your differences. On the contrary, etiquette is what enables you to deal with them; it gives you a set of rules. On the floor of the Congress, you don’t say, “You’re a jerk and a crook”; you say, “I’m afraid the distinguished gentleman is mistaken about so and so.” Those are the things that enable you to settle your differences, to bring them out in the open. Everything else just starts battles.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
In “Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 11-Feb-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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The hardest lesson — and this is what child-rearing and perhaps all of manners is about — is that there are other people in the world and you do have to take their feelings into consideration. It doesn’t mean you always have to yield to them, but it does mean that you have to know how to deal with them. A lot of people know that they want to be treated politely, but they don’t make that little leap and say, Well, the other person must feel that way, too.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
In “Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 7-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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There are etiquette rules being spread all over the Internet. They often use new terms for old rudenesses. Flaming is insulting people. Spamming is trying to do business while other people are having a social time. Having spent a lifetime with people who tell me I must be old-fashioned to care about etiquette, I could, if I were not so polite, turn around and say, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, you’re the one who is old-fashioned if you think that etiquette is old-fashioned — you obviously don’t spend time on the Internet.”

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
In “Polite Company,” interview by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1998-03)
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Added on 14-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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Miss Manners does not subscribe to the notion that merely being present and respectful, when someone else practices their religion, is tantamount to endorsing that religion.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Twitter (2011-12-29)
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Added on 4-Apr-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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It would be difficult for anyone with normal powers of observation to believe that there is a link between having money and behaving well.

Judith Martin (b. 1938) American author, journalist, etiquette expert [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Twitter (2022-01-16)
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Added on 28-Mar-22 | Last updated 9-May-23
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