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Why is it rude to put your elbows on the table when eating?

(22 Posts)
ScummyMummy Tue 19-Jul-05 10:22:07

Always wondered... does anyone know?

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 10:22:48

Yes, it's historical and to do with their being in the way when the servants came to collect your plates I think.

expatinscotland Tue 19-Jul-05 10:23:35

Dunno. It just is.

ScummyMummy Tue 19-Jul-05 10:23:44

Aha! Thanks, www. So is it ok in the modern servantless world?

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 10:24:23

apparently it's ok now, doesn't bother me personally either

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 10:25:21

I had looked that up before you asked me btw, I'm not that quick! To quote Gosford Park 'being a good servant is all about being able to anticipate'

ScummyMummy Tue 19-Jul-05 10:27:19

I thought that was superfast! So it's kind of like mild swearing now- ok unless you run into someone who finds it offensive?

NotQuiteCockney Tue 19-Jul-05 10:29:17

I wouldn't do it at a formal meal, I don't think. Much like mild swearing, I guess.

I'm sure I put my elbows on the table all the time, normally, though.

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 10:35:23

I think so. I was always told to 'get your elbows off the table' as a child and just absolutely couldn't see WHY I should comply, frankly, still don't. So I think elbows on the table are totally fine unless at a v formal occasion. And I don't get to go to many of those!

gingerbear Tue 19-Jul-05 10:40:01

Hard to put your elbows on lap tray whilst eating TV dinner

When at the table though, we try not to - mainly because sleeves get in the gravy.

Oh and another thing that annoys me - My DH always leaves his knife and fork apart on the plate when he has finished eating.
It drives me nuts. My mum always taught me to put them together when finished eating.

ScummyMummy Tue 19-Jul-05 10:41:49

Sleeves get in the gravy? Wear a T-shirt!

gingerbear Tue 19-Jul-05 12:19:32

Top Tip Scummy!!

Catbert Tue 19-Jul-05 12:23:51

GB - that's weird. My DH does that too sometimes, but mainly cause he knows it winds me up.

There is some etiquette that is far too old fashioned. including elbows - but I do always put my knife and fork together, mainly because it indicates to anyone who might care (waiters? Hosts etc) that you have finished.

Does everyone always finish their dinner when out, even if you don't like it / are full because it's good manners?

dinosaur Tue 19-Jul-05 12:25:37

If you have a big family and therefore a really crowded dining table, anyone who puts their elbows on the table will be knocking into the people on either side of them. That is why I've always thought it was rude anyway.

sansouci Tue 19-Jul-05 12:41:40

it looks terrible. with elbows on table, upper body slumps toward plate while fork shovels food in mouth.

as Dad always says, "all joints on the table will be carved."

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 12:58:29

I might pause while I'm eating, put my elbows on the table, take a sip of wine, have a bit more conversation, then take up my cutlery again to eat. I wouldn't have my elbows on the table while I was actually putting food into my mouth. Just wanted to make that clear! I wouldn't finish my food where ever I was if I didn't like it but always put my knife and fork together once I've finished.

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 13:02:28

I recently read The Rituals of Dinner, The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and the Meaning of Table Manners which says something like 'manners exist to ensure that the potential for violence at dinner (given the knives and forks etc present) is concealed rather than acted upon! It was a bit of a turgid read though, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. My elbow fact wasn't from there though, it was from my dad, who may have been totally wrong about it! Sounds plausible to me though.

snafu Tue 19-Jul-05 13:04:46

Oh, I love that book, www. In fact I think I've got two copies if anyone wants one?

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 13:11:31

Did you like it Snafu? I kept being distracted and gave up about 3/4 of the way through!

snafu Tue 19-Jul-05 13:15:20

Yes, I really found it fascinating. Know what you mean about it not being the liveliest read ever, but I am a bit of a fan of that pop-anthropology stuff (currently reading Kate Fox's Watching The English). I think it's best dipped in and out of rather than reading great lumps of it at once.

WideWebWitch Tue 19-Jul-05 13:18:15

Snafu, me too, I bought Watching the English in hardback I so wanted to read it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The bit at the beginning about how English people behave when they think someone might be about to jump a queue and how they let them know they know they're thinking about it is hilarious!

snafu Tue 19-Jul-05 13:23:21

I kept finding myself thinking 'Oh nooo, I do that!' and cringeing

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