Manners. Where would we be without them? They are the social lubricant that makes the world go round and round without too many squeaks and squawks. As for our family? Well, I felt we needed a little review.
“Manners Can Be Fun” by Munro Leaf was just the refresher course we needed. The 1950′s classic offers some very old-fashioned, yet very timely advice about everything from introductions, to playtime, to grooming with hilarious illustrations to boot.
We were introduced to many manner-deprived, unsavory characters and their coordinating caricatures such as “The Whiner,” “The Sulker,” and the dreaded “Bathroom-Wrecker.” Believe me, one look at those hilarious stick figures, and you don’t want to be labeled with any of those titles.
We practiced how to shake hands, smile and clearly enunciate, “How do you do?” when meeting someone new. I don’t know what that phrase even means really–how do I do what? But it sounds proper, and every time I hear Grace Kelly say it in an old movie, I firmly believe we all need to resurrect the salutation. I’ll get the ball rolling:
“How do you do?”
In fact, I’m always so impressed with people’s impeccable manners when I watch period dramas on television, aren’t you? Do you suppose Jane Austen really spoke that way in real life? Did everyone back then really speak that way? “I’d be much obliged, kind sir…”
Why don’t I ever shout, “Make haste! Make haste!” to get my kids hustled out the door? Or instead of hollering, “Right now!” the word “forthwith” seems so much more pleasant.
Did words like “retrench,” “disapprobation,” and “actuate” simply fall from people’s educated lips 200 years ago? Why ever did we stop using terms like “quixotic” and “fulsome” to express our ideas or distaste?
When did “an attachment” stop meaning something other than an addendum to an email? Oh, what doth become of our mother tongue? Have our insipid, casual ways usurped such proper, amiable pleasantries from our dwindling vocabulary?
But before I start making SAT-word flash cards for my younglings, to begin incorporating into their vernacular, I just want them to get down the basics: A firm handshake, a pleasant smile and a clear,
“How do you do?”
Oh, and also keep a tidy bathroom. And no more sulking about it either. (That goes for me too. Forthwith.)
Margaret Anderson is a BYU graduate, returned missionary, freelance writer and mother of four small children. Read more at www.jamsandpickles.wordpress.com