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An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy: How Manners Shaped the World

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Overview

With engaging and artfully presented text, including sidebars on media mavens throughout history, social gaffes, and archaic manners, this book is as entertaining as it is informative. Readers delve into cultural similarities and differences through lively passages, colorful photography, and sidebars on unique history. Topics include Courtesies and Greetings, Communication and Correspondence, Dining and Entertaining, Hierarchies and Protocol, Hospitality and Occasions, Amusements and Institutions, Boundaries and ...
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Overview

With engaging and artfully presented text, including sidebars on media mavens throughout history, social gaffes, and archaic manners, this book is as entertaining as it is informative. Readers delve into cultural similarities and differences through lively passages, colorful photography, and sidebars on unique history. Topics include Courtesies and Greetings, Communication and Correspondence, Dining and Entertaining, Hierarchies and Protocol, Hospitality and Occasions, Amusements and Institutions, Boundaries and Cultural Differences, New Technology and Old Manners. Whether you are planning a trip abroad or just want a fascinating, browsable read, find out what is universal and what is merely a product of one's culture.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"Etiquette," one sage opined, "means behaving a little better than is absolutely essential." Of course, what that "a letter better" means exactly differs in place to place and over time. Bethanne Patrick''s An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy serves as a delectable entrée to this subject, offering fascinating stories and arresting sidebars to demonstrate how our concepts of good behavior have made us behave over the centuries.

From the Publisher
“The sharply designed and strikingly illustrated book offers page-length discussions of everything from “Ring Kissing” to “Close Talkers.” Concise biographies of significant figures in the history of good behavior are interspersed tactfully throughout: Erasmus, Mrs. Beeton, Lady Bird Johnson.” –Washington Post

"Refinement in table manners signals that a person has taken time to consider what best suits other people, whether they're seated at left or right, or across the table," declares the brand-new "An Uncommon History of Common Courtesy: How Manners Shaped the World" (National Geographic, $40) by Bethanne Patrick. "No wonder that elaborate dinners are often a precursor to being hired in large, formal companies — he or she who demonstrates deft precision with cutlery will usually practice the same when faced with a crucial deal." –Chicago Tribune
Library Journal
In her second "Uncommon History" book, Patrick (An Uncommon History of Common Things) brings together a curious compilation of information on customs and manners from North America and all around the world. Sorted into eight chapters, the entries are categorized by types of manners, including "Elbows Off the Table" and "Shake Hands, Tip Hats." Patrick also includes a section on how to say "please" and "thank you" in several languages. In seeking to cover all too much, however, the book is unable to provide adequate coverage of the various topics. The page-long entries are adorned with colorful photographs and illustrations, which are lovely, but the text is just short enough to frustrate the reader. Additionally frustrating is the lack of references, so readers are forced to take the information at face value. VERDICT This book may appeal to some who don't mind "history-lite" in learning about customs and manners in a casual book for browsing. For others, not recommended.—Holly S. Hebert, Brentwood Lib., TN
Yvonne Zipp
In this engaging volume, Patrick takes a ­global approach to etiquette…if you'd like to know why you shouldn't cut potatoes with a knife in Germany, or why it's okay to go shopping in your pajamas in Shanghai, the Uncommon Guide provides a breezy look at why we act the way we do.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426208133
  • Publisher: National Geographic Society
  • Publication date: 10/18/2011
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 139,120
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bethanne Patrick is a writer and book critic who blogs as The Book Maven. A graduate of Smith College with a master's from the University of Virginia, she hosts an online author interview show for PBS affiliate WETA. Her features, profiles, and reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, The Writer, and People.
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Read an Excerpt

20 Kinds of Kisses
 
Some cultures—including England and America, until relatively recently— do not have a tradition of social kissing. In these societies, handshakes and sometimes hugs are the most common greetings.
But many other cultures have been kissing in greeting for hundreds of years, and have evolved particular habits. Most fall under the ancient Roman category of osculum, or a kiss on the cheek. (Those classification- happy Romans also delineated basium as a kiss on the lips and savolium as a “deep kiss.”)
 
Unlike the other types of kisses (some historians specify 20 kinds of kisses, but they refer to purpose, not physicality), the kiss on the cheek is usually given in friendship, greeting, comfort, or respect. In France, the tradition is known as faire la bise and generally refers to a kiss on each cheek. However, the number of kisses given varies widely according to region in France—and it also varies in other countries. In Brazil two kisses are standard, but a third might be offered for “luck” if the recipient is unmarried. One of the most entrenched traditions is in the Netherlands, where kisses of greeting between friends and relatives always number three. Women kiss both males and females three times in succession, but men generally reciprocate only with women. With other men, they con- fine physical greetings to a handshake. Although the three kisses can look like an awkward head-bobbing dance, it is terribly impolite to refuse.
 
Why? “It’s a Dutch thing,” is the answer.
 
But wait! Kissing three times on alternating cheeks is also traditional in Egypt, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Hmmm. Maybe not such a “Dutch thing” after all.
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 4, 2011

    Browsable at best

    Interesting to browse through and some entries are enlightening but in my opinion this book, though nicely designed and printed, promises more than it delivers. I found many of the entries boringly presented, only so-so in their level of commentary and historical fact and analysis, and often I ended with a sort of "so what" feeling at the end of sections. Others do seem to like it. Not me that much.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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