For the holidays, a brief history of manners
For the holidays, a brief history of manners

According to Emily Post, "All rules of table manners are made to avoid ugliness." They exist to shield us from other people's effusions and emissions — and to conceal our own. Manners can act as a lubricant, minimizing social friction, but mostly their purpose is protective. They muffle our primal urges. In effect, they turn our natural warrior-like selves into elegant courtiers. That may be something to keep in mind today, especially if you find yourself seated between fastidious Uncle Eric and belligerent Cousin Kenneth at the Thanksgiving table. Early guides to manners were fixated on proper behavior at table. In medieval England, meals were occasions not only for...