etiquette maven Cindy Post Senning wrote:
"The principles of respect, consideration and honesty are universal and timeless," she says. But "manners change over time and from culture to culture."
Having read literature from over several centuries, and presuming they represent everyday behaviour for the era they are written in, and being a history minor and buff, I've developed a personal thesis. The more personal danger you are in from another person getting cross and attacking you (flooring you/maiming/killing you) over it, the more elaborate the language of courtesy, and the more tightly observed the social hierarchy. As borders broaden, and as laws of protection broaden, and especially as actual enforcement of public safety broaden and take hold, every day language becomes less elaborate and ornate in courtesy. Your flattering, soothing words no longer are all that stand between you and getting a sword or dagger in the stomach or a whack on the head.
My thesis is, the more relaxed the language, the more personally safe the members feel.
At work today, I caught myself thanking a lady who called right before I hung up. After I hung up, I stared at the phone for a second and wondered why I was thanking someone for calling a wrong number.
That's easy. You were using a civil platitude that was technically logically incorrect to use right there, but was perfectly useful to convey the meaning: "you've used my time and attention on a mistake you made, but I don't want you to feel bad about it, because it was a perfectly understandable mistake to make, most people make it at least once, gee, I make that mistake myself sometimes, and I don't want you to feel bad about making it today with me." Edited, Mar 24th 2012 1:10am by Aripyanfar