Quotations about:
    politeness


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The very essence of politeness seems to be to take care that by our words and actions we make other people pleased with us as well as with themselves.

[Il me semble que l’esprit de politesse est une certaine attention à faire que par nos paroles et par nos manières les autres soient contents de nous et d’eux-mêmes.]

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and of Conversation [De la société et de la conversation],” § 32 (5.32) (1688) [tr. Van Laun (1885)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

The Politeness of the Mind is a certain care to make us pleasing by our discourses and manners to our selves and others.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

Politeness seems to be a certain Care, by the manner of our Words and Actions, to make others pleas'd with us and themselves.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

Politeness seems to be a Care to model our Discourses and Manners so as to please ourselves and others.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

It seems to me that the spirit of politeness lies in taking care to speak and act in such a way as to make others pleased with us and with themselves.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]
 
Added on 31-Jan-23 | Last updated 31-Jan-23
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All the higher animals have methods of expressing pleasure, but human beings alone express pleasure when they do not feel it. This is called politeness and is reckoned among the virtues.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On smiling,” New York American (17 Aug 1932)
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Added on 26-Jan-23 | Last updated 26-Jan-23
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Politeness does not always imply goodness, equity, obligingness and gratitude; it at least provides the appearance of these, and makes a man seem outwardly what he should be inwardly.

[La politesse n’inspire pas toujours la bonté, l’équité, la complaisance, la gratitude; elle en donne du moins les apparences, et fait paraître l’homme au dehors comme il devrait être intérieurement.]

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 5 “Of Society and Conversation [De la société et de la conversation],” § 32 (5.32) (1688) [tr. Stewart (1970)]
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(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

Politeness does not always inspire Generosity, Equity, Complaisance, and Gratitude: it gives a man the appearances of those Vertues, and makes him seem that without, which he ought to be within.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

Politeness does not always inspire Generosity, Justice, Complaisance and Gratitude; it gives a Man the Appearances of those Virtues, and makes him seem that without, which he ought to be within.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

Politeness does not always produce kindness of heart, justice, complacency, or gratitude, but it gives to a man at least the appearance of it, and makes him seem externally what he really should be.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

 
Added on 24-Jan-23 | Last updated 24-Jan-23
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The object of what we call deportment and good manners is to attain that which can otherwise be attained only by force or not even by force.

[Durch das, was wir Betragen und gute Sitten nennen, soll das erreicht werden, was außerdem nur durch Gewalt, oder auch nicht einmal durch Gewalt zur erreichen ist.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities [Die Wahlverwandtschaften], Part 2, ch. 5, “From Ottilie’s Journal [Aus Ottiliens Tagebuche]” (1809) [tr. Hollingdale (1971)]
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(Source (German)). Alternate translation:

That which we call politeness and good breeding effects what otherwise can only be obtained by violence, or not even that.
[Niles ed. (1872)]

 
Added on 23-Jan-23 | Last updated 23-Jan-23
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Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.

Patrick Rothfuss
Patrick Rothfuss (b. 1973) American author
The Name of the Wind, ch. 8 (2007)
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Added on 12-Jan-23 | Last updated 12-Jan-23
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Politeness and honour have this advantage, that they remain with him who displays them to others.

[La galantería y la honra tienen esta ventaja, que se quedan: aquélla en quien la usa, ésta en quien la hace.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 118 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translations:

Politeness and a sense of honor have this advantage: we bestow them on others without losing a thing.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

Gallantry, and honor have this advantage, they are saved through being spent, the first if practiced, the second if worn.
[tr. Fischer (1937)]

 
Added on 5-Dec-22 | Last updated 5-Dec-22
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Politeness is the art of choosing among one’s real thoughts.

Germaine de Staël (1766-1817) Swiss-French writer, woman of letters, critic, salonist [Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, Madame de Staël, Madame Necker]
Quoted in Abel Stevens, Madame de Staël, Vol. 1, ch. 4 “Early Character” (1880)
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Stated as a possible paraphrase: "It was a maxim with her that politeness is the art of choosing among one's real thoughts."
 
Added on 28-Nov-22 | Last updated 28-Nov-22
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Manners consist in pretending that we think as well of others as of ourselves. Manners are necessary because, as a rule, there is a pretence; when our good opinion of others is genuine, manners look after themselves. Perhaps instead of teaching manners, parents should teach the statistical probability that the person you are speaking to is just as good as you are. It is difficult to believe this; very few of us do, in our instincts, believe it. One’s own ego seems so incomparably more sensitive, more perceptive, wiser and more profound than other people’s. Yet there must be very few of whom this is true, and it is not likely that oneself is one of those few. There is nothing like viewing oneself statistically as a means both to good manners and to good morals.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“On Being Insulting,” New York American (21 Dec 1934)
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Added on 14-Nov-22 | Last updated 14-Nov-22
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There is no outward mark of politeness that does not have a profound moral reason. The right education would be that which taught the outward mark and the moral reason together.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Elective Affinities, Part 2, ch. 5 (1809) [tr. Hollingdale (1971)]
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Alternate translation:

There is no outward sign of courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral foundation. . The proper education would be that which communicated the sign and the foundation of it at the same time.
[Niles ed. (1872)]

 
Added on 31-Oct-22 | Last updated 31-Oct-22
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Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead lady.

Yukiteswar
Sri Yukteswar Giri (1855-1936) Indian monk, yogi, guru [श्रीयुक्तेश्वर गिरि, b. Priya Nath Karar]
In Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, ch. 12 (1946)
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Added on 24-Oct-22 | Last updated 24-Oct-22
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But remember, that manners must adorn knowledge, and smooth its way through the world. Like a great rough diamond, it may do very well in a closet by way of curiosity, and also for its intrinsic value; but it will never be worn, nor shine, if it is not polished.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son, #155 (1 Jul 1748)
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Added on 10-Oct-22 | Last updated 10-Oct-22
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For tho’ it is certainly more laudable, and a thing of greater moment, to be generous, constant, and magnanimous, than merely to be polite and well bred; yet we find, from daily experience, that sweetness of manners, a genteel carriage, and, polite address are frequently of more advantage to those who are so happy as to be possessed of them, than any greatness of soul or brightness of parts are to those who are adorned with those more shining talents.

[E come che l’esser liberale o constante o magnanimo sia per sé sanza alcun fallo più laudabil cosa e maggiore che non è l’essere avenente e costumato, non di meno forse che la dolcezza de’ costumi e la convenevolezza de’ modi e delle maniere e delle parole giovano non meno a’ possessori di esse che la grandezza dell’animo e la sicurezza altresì a’ loro possessori non fanno.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 1 (1558) [tr. Graves (1774)]
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(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

And albeit Liberalitie, or magnanimitie, of themselves beare a greater praise, then, to be a well taught or manored man: yet perchaunce, the courteous behaviour and entertainement with good maners and words, helpe no lesse, him that hath them: then the high minde and courage, advaunceth him in whome they be.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

Although liberality, courage, or generosity are without doubt far greater and more praiseworthy things than charm and manners, none the less, pleasant habits and decorous manners and words are perhaps no less useful to those who have them than a noble spirit and self-assurance are to others.
[tr. Einsenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

 
Added on 22-Aug-22 | Last updated 13-Dec-22
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You ought to regulate your manner of behaviour towards others, not according to your own humour, but agreeably to the pleasure and inclination of those with whom you converse.

[Il che acciò che tu più agevolmente apprenda di fare, dèi sapere che a te convien temperare et ordinare i tuoi modi non secondo il tuo arbitrio, ma secondo il piacer di coloro co’ quali tu usi, et a quello indirizzargli.]

Giovanni della Casa
Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) Florentine poet, author, diplomat, bishop
Galateo: Or, A Treatise on Politeness and Delicacy of Manners [Il Galateo overo de’ costumi], ch. 2 (1558) [tr. Graves (1774)]
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(Source (Italian)). Alternate translations:

It behooves thee, to frame and order thy maners and doings, not according to thine owne minde and fashion: but to please those, with whome thou livest, and after that sort direct thy doings.
[tr. Peterson (1576)]

You must know that it will be to your advantage to temper and adapt your manners not according to your own choices but according to the pleasure of those with whom you are dealing and act accordingly.
[tr. Einsenbichler/Bartlett (1986)]

 
Added on 15-Aug-22 | Last updated 26-Oct-22
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The thorny point
Of bare distress hath ta’en from me the show
Of smooth civility.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 2, sc. 7, l. 99ff [Orlando] (1599)
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Added on 11-Jul-22 | Last updated 11-Jul-22
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Politeness is a tacit agreement that people’s miserable defects, whether moral or intellectual, shall on either side be ignored and not made the subject of reproach; and since these defects are thus rendered somewhat less obtrusive, the result is mutually advantageous.

[Sie ist eine stillschweigende Übereinkunft, gegenseitig die moralisch und intellektuell elende Beschaffenheit von einander zu ignoriren und sie sich nicht vorzurücken; – wodurch diese, zu beiderseitigem Vorteil, etwas weniger leicht zutage kommt.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” ch. C, § 36 (1851) [tr. Saunders (1890)]
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Source (German). Alternate translation:

Politeness is a tacit agreement that we shall mutually ignore and refrain from reproaching one another's miserable defects, both moral and intellectual. In this way, they do not so readily come to light, to the advantage of both sides.
[tr. Payne (1974)]

 
Added on 16-Jun-22 | Last updated 16-Jun-22
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How sweet and gracious, even in common speech,
Is that fine sense which men call Courtesy!
Wholesome as air and genial as the light,
Welcome in every clime as breath of flowers,
It transmutes aliens into trusting friends,
And gives its owner passport round the globe.

James T Fields
James T. Fields (1817-1881) American publisher, editor, poet
“Courtesy”
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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Politeness, however, acts the lady’s-maid to our thoughts; and they are washed, dressed, curled, rouged, and perfumed, before they are presented to the public.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838) English poet and novelist [a/k/a L.E.L.]
Romance and Reality, Vol. 2, ch. 14 (1831)
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Added on 1-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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Even in cases of obvious certainty it is fine to yield: our reasons for holding the view cannot escape notice, our courtesy in yielding must be the more recognised. Our obstinacy loses more than our victory yields: that is not to champion truth but rather rudeness.

[Aun en caso de evidencia, es ingenuidad el ceder, que no se ignora la razón que tuvo y se conoce la galantería que tiene. Más se pierde con el arrimamiento que se puede ganar con el vencimiento; no es defender la verdad, sino la grosería.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 183 (1647) [tr. Jacobs (1892)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Even when you are right, it is good to make concessions: people will recognize you were right but admire your courtesy. More is lost through holding on than can be won by defeating others. One defends not truth but rudeness.
[tr. Maurer (1992)]

 
Added on 1-Jun-22 | Last updated 13-Jun-22
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POLITENESS, n. The most acceptable hypocrisy.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Devil’s Dictionary (1911)
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Added on 10-May-22 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Politeness is prudence and consequently rudeness is folly. To make enemies by being wantonly and unnecessarily rude is as crazy as setting one’s house on fire.

[Höflichkeit ist Klugheit; folglich ist Unhöflichkeit Dummheit: sich mittelst ihrer unnötiger und mutwilliger Weise Feinde machen ist Raserei, wie wenn man sein Haus in Brand steckt.]

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 1, “Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life [Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit],” “Counsels and Maxims [Paränesen und Maximen],” ch. C, § 36 (1851) [tr. Payne (1974)]
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Source (German). Alternate translation:

It is a wise thing to be polite; consequently, it is a stupid thing to be rude. To make enemies by unnecessary and willful incivility, is just as insane a proceeding as to set your house on fire.
[tr. Saunders (1890)]

 
Added on 25-Apr-22 | Last updated 16-Jun-22
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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 [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
Twitter (29 Dec 2011)
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Added on 4-Apr-22 | Last updated 4-Apr-22
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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 [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company: A Chat with Judith Martin About Etiquette,” interview with Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1 Mar 1998)
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Added on 7-Mar-22 | Last updated 7-Mar-22
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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 [a.k.a. Miss Manners]
“Polite Company: A Chat with Judith Martin About Etiquette,” interview with Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today (1 Mar 1998)
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Added on 24-Jan-22 | Last updated 24-Jan-22
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Treat your enemies with courtesy, and you’ll see how valuable it really is. It costs little but pays a nice dividend.

[Tiénese por deuda entre enemigos para que se vea su valor. Cuesta poco y vale mucho.]

Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658) Spanish Jesuit priest, writer, philosopher
The Art of Worldly Wisdom [Oráculo Manual y Arte de Prudencia], § 118 (1647) [tr. Maurer (1992)]
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(Source (Spanish)). Alternate translation:

Between opponents, courtesy is especially due as a proof of valour. It costs little and helps much.
[tr. Jacobs (1892)]

 
Added on 24-Jan-22 | Last updated 24-Jan-22
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Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named … but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday (1982)
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Added on 6-Dec-21 | Last updated 6-Dec-21
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Never acquire the “all hands ’round” habit. Shake hands with your host, but a bow to the rest is sufficient.

No picture available
Minna Antrim (1861-1950) American epigrammatist, writer
Don’ts for Bachelors and Old Maids (1908)
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Added on 3-Dec-21 | Last updated 3-Dec-21
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Civilization will cease without civility.

Helen Hayes (1900-1993) American actress
Loving Life (1987) [with Marion Glasserow Gladney]
 
Added on 29-Nov-21 | Last updated 29-Nov-21
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CONGRATULATION, n. The civility of envy.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) American writer and journalist
The Cynic’s Word Book (1906)
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Added on 4-Oct-21 | Last updated 4-Oct-21
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The great thing about civility is that it does not require you to agree with or approve of anything. You don’t even have to love your neighbor to be civil. You just have to treat your neighbor the same way you would like your neighbor to treat your grandmother, or your child.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
(Attributed)
 
Added on 17-Sep-21 | Last updated 17-Sep-21
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The happy should not insist too much upon their happiness in the presence of the unhappy.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
“Table-talk”
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Added on 4-Jun-21 | Last updated 4-Jun-21
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To a linguist, the phenomenon is familiar: the euphemism treadmill. People invent new “polite” words to refer to emotionally laden or distasteful things, but the euphemism becomes tainted by association and the new one that must be found acquires its own negative connotations. “Water closet” becomes “toilet” (originally a term for any body care, as in “toilet kit”), which becomes “bathroom,” which becomes “rest room,” which becomes “lavatory.” “Garbage collection” turns into “sanitation,” which turns into “environmental services.” The euphemism treadmill shows that concepts, not words, are in charge. Give a concept a new name, and the name becomes colored by the concept; the concept does not become freshened by the name. (We will know we have achieved equality and mutual respect when names for minorities stay put.)

Steven Pinker (b. 1954) Canadian-American cognitive psychologist, linguist, author
“The Game of the Name,” New York Times (5 Apr 1994)
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Added on 2-Jun-21 | Last updated 2-Jun-21
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The most useful of all social graces is the ability to yawn with your mouth closed.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)
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Variant: As quoted in The Wall Street Journal (9 Aug 1984): 'At board meetings, "the one unmatched asset is the ability to yawn with your mouth closed," says Robert Mueller in a new book, 'Behind the Boardroom Door.'"
 
Added on 4-Sep-20 | Last updated 4-Sep-20
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Lying is an indispensable part of making life tolerable.

Bergen Evans (1904-1978) American educator, writer, lexicographer
Quoted in “The Euphemism: Telling It Like It Isn’t,” Time (19 Sep 1969)
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Sometimes misquoted with the words "Euphemisms persist because," but these are non-quoted text leading up to the quotation.
 
Added on 20-May-20 | Last updated 20-May-20
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They continued to mount the winding staircase. A high wind, blowing through the loopholes, went rushing up the shaft, and filled the girl’s skirts like a balloon, so that she was ashamed, until he took the hem of her dress and held it down for her. He did it perfectly simply, as he would have picked up her glove. She remembered this always.

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Sons and Lovers, Part 2, ch. 7 “Lad-and-Girl Love” (1913)
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Added on 16-Apr-19 | Last updated 16-Apr-19
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The essence of good manners consists in making it clear that one has no wish to hurt. When it is clearly necessary to hurt, it must be done in such a way as to make it evident that the necessity is felt to be regrettable.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“Good Manners and Hypocrisy,” New York American (14 Dec 1934)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 7-Nov-22
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Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

Emily Post (1872-1960) American author, columnist [née Price]
(Attributed)

Often cited to her famous Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home (1922), but not found in that work. Claimed as genuine by the Emily Post Institute.
 
Added on 4-Oct-18 | Last updated 4-Oct-18
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Good manners — the longer I live the more convinced I am of it — are a priceless insurance against failure and loneliness. And anyone can have them.

Elsa Maxwell (1883-1963) American gossip columnist, author, songwriter, professional hostess
Elsa Maxwell’s Etiquette Book (1951)
 
Added on 12-Apr-18 | Last updated 12-Apr-18
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Morals are three-quarters manners.

Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) US Supreme Court Justice, jurist and teacher
Felix Frankfurter Reminiscences (1960) [ed. Harlan Phillips]
 
Added on 15-Feb-18 | Last updated 15-Feb-18
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Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Social Aims,” lecture, Boston (4 Dec 1864), Letters and Social Aims (1875)
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Added on 2-Nov-17 | Last updated 19-Feb-22
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Of course I lie to people. But I lie altruistically — for our mutual good. The lie is the basic building block of good manners. That may seem mildly shocking to a moralist — but then what isn’t?

Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) English writer and raconteur [b. Denis Pratt]
Manners from Heaven: A Divine Guide to Good Behavior (1984)
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Added on 19-Oct-17 | Last updated 19-Oct-17
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We are justified in enforcing good morals, for they belong to all mankind; but we are not justified in enforcing good manners, for good manners always mean our own manners.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
All Things Considered, “Limericks and Counsels of Perfection” (1908)
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Added on 12-Oct-17 | Last updated 12-Oct-17
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Good general-purpose manners nowadays may be said to consist in knowing how much you can get away with.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) Irish author
“Manners,” Collected Impressions (1950)
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Added on 24-Aug-17 | Last updated 24-Aug-17
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Again, it is proper to the magnanimous person to ask for nothing, or hardly anything, but to help eagerly. When he meets people with good fortune or a reputation for worth, he displays his greatness, since superiority over them is difficult and impressive, and there is nothing ignoble in trying to be impressive with them. But when he meets ordinary people, he is moderate, since superiority over them is easy, and an attempt to be impressive among inferiors is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.

[μεγαλοψύχου δὲ καὶ τὸ μηδενὸς δεῖσθαι ἢ μόλις, ὑπηρετεῖν δὲ προθύμως, καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἐν ἀξιώματι καὶ εὐτυχίαις μέγαν εἶναι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς μέσους μέτριον: τῶν μὲν γὰρ ὑπερέχειν χαλεπὸν καὶ σεμνόν, τῶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον, καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἐκείνοις μὲν σεμνύνεσθαι οὐκ ἀγεννές, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ταπεινοῖς φορτικόν, ὥσπερ εἰς τοὺς ἀσθενεῖς ἰσχυρίζεσθαι.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 4, ch. 3 (4.3.26) / 1124b.18 (c. 325 BC) [tr. Irwin (1999)]
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The core word Aristotle is using is μεγαλοψυχία (translated variously as high-mindedness, great-mindedness, pride, great-soulness, magnanimity). (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Further, it is characteristic of the Great-minded man to ask favours not at all, or very reluctantly, but to do a service very readily; and to bear himself loftily towards the great or fortunate, but towards people of middle station affably; because to be above the former is difficult and so a grand thing, but to be above the latter is easy; and to be high and mighty towards the former is not ignoble, but to do it towards those of humble station would be low and vulgar; it would be like parading strength against the weak.
[tr. Chase (1847)]

It would seem, too, that the high-minded man asks favours of no one, or, at any rate, asks them with the greatest reluctance, but that he is always eager to do good offices to others; and that towards those in high position and prosperity he bears himself with pride, but towards ordinary men with moderation; for in the former case it is difficult to show superiority, and to do so is a lordly mater; whereas in the latter case it is easy. To be haughty among the great is no proof of bad breeding, but haughtiness among the lowly is as base-born a thing as it is to make trial of great strength upon the weak.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

It is characteristic too of the high-minded man that he never, or hardly ever, asks a favor, that he is ready to do anybody a service, and that, although his bearing is stately towards person of dignity and affluence, it is unassuming toward the middle class; for while it is a difficult and dignified thing to be superior to the former, it is easy enough to be superior to the latter, and while a dignified demeanour in dealing with the former is a mark of nobility, it is a mark of vulgarity ind ealing with the latter, as it like a display of physical strength at the expense of an invalid.
[tr. Welldon (1892), ch. 8]

It is characteristic of the high-minded man, again, never or reluctantly to ask favours, but to be ready to confer them, and to be lofty in his behaviour to those who are high in station and favoured by fortune, but affable to those of the middle ranks; for it is a difficult thing and a dignified thing to assert superiority over the former, but easy to assert it over the latter. A haughty demeanour in dealing with the great is quite consistent with good breeding, but in dealing with those of low estate is brutal, like showing off one’s strength upon a cripple.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

It is a mark of the proud man also to ask for nothing or scarcely anything, but to give help readily, and to be dignified towards people who enjoy high position and good fortune, but unassuming towards those of the middle class; for it is a difficult and lofty thing to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter, and a lofty bearing over the former is no mark of ill-breeding, but among humble people it is as vulgar as a display of strength against the weak.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

It is also characteristic of the great-souled man never to ask help from others, or only with reluctance, but to render aid willingly; and to be haughty towards men of position and fortune, but courteous towards those of moderate station, because it is difficult and distinguished to be superior to the great, but easy to outdo the lowly, and to adopt a high manner with the former is not ill-bred, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people: it is like putting forth one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing or hardly anything but to offer his services eagerly, and to exhibit his greatness to those with a reputation for great worth or those who are enjoying good luck, but to moderate his greatness to those in the middle. For it is a difficult and a dignified thing to show oneself superior to the former, but an easy one to do so to the latter, and, while adopting a dignified manner toward the former is not ill-bred, to do so toward humble people is vulgar, like displaying strength against the weak.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

It is the mark of a high-minded man, too, never, or hardly ever, to ask for help, but to be of help to others readily, and to be dignified with men of high position or of good fortune, but unassuming with those of middle class, for it is difficult and impressive to be superior to the former, but easy to be so to the latter; and whereas being impressive to the former is not a mark of a lowly man, being so to the humble is crude -- it is like using physical force against the physically weak.
[tr. Apostle (1975)]

Another mark of the magnanimous man is that he never, or only reluctantly, makes a request, whereas he is eager to help others. He his haughty toward those who are influential and successful, but moderate toward those who have an intermediate position in society, because in the former case to be superior is difficult and impressive, but in the latter it is easy' and to create an impression at the expense of the former is not ill-bred, but to do so among the humble is vulgar.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

It is also characteristic of a great-souled person to ask for nothing, or almost nothing, but to help others readily; and to be dignified in his behavior towards people of distinction or the well-off, but unassuming toward people at the middle level. Superiority over the first group is difficult and impressive, but over the second it is easy, and attempting to impress the first group is not ill-bred, while in the case of humble people it is vulgar, like a show of strength against the weak.
[tr. Crisp (2000)]

It belongs to the great-souled also to need nothing, or scarcely anything, but to be eager to be of service, and to be great in the presence of people of worth and good fortune, but measured toward those of a middling rank. For it is a difficult and august thing to be superior among the fortunate, but easy to be that way among the middling sorts; and to exalt oneself among the former is not a lowborn thing, but to do so among the latter is crude, just as is using one's strength against the weak.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Sometimes paraphrased:

It is not ill-bred to adopt a high manner with the great and the powerful, but it is vulgar to lord it over humble people.

 
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More quotes by Aristotle

The young man appeared disconcerted at the vehemence of Phryne’s discourse, and she changed the subject. One did not wantonly disconcert young men on whom one might be having designs in future.

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Murder on the Ballarat Train (1991)
 
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Punctuality is the politeness of kings.

[L’exactitude est la politesse des rois.]

Louis XVIII (1755-1824) French monarch (1814-1824) ["Louis the Desired"]
(Attributed)

Attributed in Souvenirs de J. Lafitte (1844)
 
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For to be civilized is to be incapable of giving unnecessary offense, it is to have some quality of consideration for all who cross our path.

Agnes Repplier (1855-1950) American writer
“A Question of Politeness,” Americans and Others (1912)
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Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.

Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) English aristocrat, letter writer, poet [née Pierrepont]
Letter to Mary, Countess of Bute (30 May 1756)
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Better a false “Good morning” than a sincere “Go to Hell.”

(Other Authors and Sources)
Yiddish proverb
 
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More quotes by ~Other

The waiter returned with Ronni’s bourbon. She drank it while he explained about the specials. The explanation took a while and I wondered, as I always did when people recited a menu at me, what I was supposed to do while they did it. To just sit and nod wisely made me feel like a talk show host. To get up and go to the men’s room seemed rude. Once in Chicago I had tried taking notes in the margin of the menu, but they got mad at me.

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) American writer
The Widening Gyre (1983)
 
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“Why now,” said Tazendra. “There is an idea. What do you think of Kytraan’s idea, Piro?”
“It is one I had not thought of,” admitted Piro.
“And do you think it a good one?” said Kytraan.
“I must consider it.”
“Oh,” said Tazendra, “we have nothing against considering.”
“No, indeed,” said Kytraan. “I, myself, have been known to consider on occasion, and would scarcely begrudge another’s chance to consider.”
“That is good, then; I will do so.”
“And will you do so now?” said Tazendra.
“I am considering this very instant,” said Piro. .
“That is good,” said Kytraan.
“Yes. I could not tell, or I should not have asked,” said Tazendra.
“Then it is right that you asked.”
“Do you think so?”
“I am certain of it.”
“Well, then I am pleased.”
“And you should be. But, your pardon, I am considering.”
“Of course,” said Tazendra, falling silent.

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
 
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Is it progress if a cannibal uses knife and fork?

[Czy jeżeli ludożerca je widelcem i nożem to postęp?]

Stanislaw Lec (1909-1966) Polish aphorist, poet, satirist
Unkempt Thoughts [Myśli nieuczesane] (1957) [tr. Gałązka (1962)]
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The music that can deepest reach,
And cure all ill, is cordial speech.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Considerations by the Way,” The Conduct of Life, ch. 7 (1860)
 
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If a civil word or two will render a man happy, he must be a wretch indeed who will not give them to him.

Louis XIV (1638-1715) French monarch (1643-1715) [Louis the Great, the Sun King)
(Attributed)
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Quoted in William Seward, Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons, Vol 4, 5th ed. (1804).
 
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When once the forms of civility are violated, there remains little hope of return to kindness or decency.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler, #50 (25 Sep 1750)
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Couched as a letter to the paper from a woman.
 
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Talking is one of the fine arts — the noblest, the most important, the most difficult — and its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858)
 
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