Archive for the 'Daily Life' Category



Are you a Pre or Post-Lactarian?

An example of post-lactarianism

It was whilst flicking through Professor Alan S. C. Ross’s book ‘Don’t Say It’ that I stumbled merrily upon these two terms, which were both new to me. A pre-lactarian is someone who pours their milk into their tea or coffee before the hot water; a post-lactarian is someone who adds milk last.

But which method is correct? Well, there is no strict answer to this. It has its roots in class distinction.

In previous eras, adding the milk in before the hot water was always done by the ‘downstairs’ of the big houses, who would have pottery mugs. These mugs did not react too well to the boiling water, and thus the cold milk was poured in first so that it instantly cooled the water and thus the mugs survived in one piece.

Meanwhile, in the ‘upstairs’ of the house, where they could afford cups and saucers made from china or porcelain, the milk could be added after the hot water, as the cups were able to cope with the boiling water as they were made from a more resilient material.

As to who actually invented the terms pre and post-lactarian, I do not know and I am still researching, but they are much grander than some of the terms one could use instead!

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Denim for Dinner?!

true_religion_jeansRecently I had a sojourn to the Lake District with my family and we stayed in the same small, hotel we have stayed in for the last twelve years when we visit our relatives in the north of the region. One of my favourite things about this hotel is the excellent food they never fail to serve.

On our first night at dinner, I was shocked – no, mortified – to discover that fifteen out of the nineteen diners were wearing jeans. Jeans! Denim! I should at this juncture state that the restaurant itself is quite formal (it’s not a Harvester). Only at this point did I realise that my brother was also wearing jeans (smart jeans – not ones with rips and holes in, but jeans nonetheless). My family quickly told me to calm down and stop being such a stick in the mud.

But this is why I was shocked: when we first stayed at said hotel, the gentlemen wore jackets and ties, whilst the women wore dresses. You were looked upon in horror if you wore jeans (or dared not wear a jacket – although no rule was enforced). Now, ten years later, there has transparently been a seismic shift in standards. I should state here and now that I rolled up on the first night (going by previous experiences) with a jacket, tie and corduroy trousers. People looked at me. They stared.

When sitting in the hotel lounge afterwards I heard a young-ish girl refer to me to her father as ‘that odd boy with the tie’. Well. That’s the thanks one gets for upholding standards.

Society does change, I accept that, but what shocked me is the speed in which, in this particular instance, it has done so. My fear is that we as a nation are too lazy to make the effort for anything anymore. The chef has made an effort to produce top-notch food, so why should we be so arrogant as to wear the same clothes we were wearing all day to eat it?

Moan over. But for the record, for the next two nights we were there, I made sure I wore a jacket, tie and smart trousers. And if I had had my dinner jacket to hand, I’d have worn that: just to make my point.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Pearls Before Swine: Shaking Hands and Swine Flu

A question etiquette consultants have been asked over the last few months is ‘do I shake hands with someone for fear of catching swine flu?’ A lot of people are becoming worried – perhaps paranoid – that if they shake someone’s hand at the moment the chances of catching the H1-N1 virus increases. The same applies for social kissing.

The English Manner’s John Robertson says, “Go ahead and shake their hands. You’re going to pick up more germs anyway as soon as you touch the next door knob and you should just continue to wash your hands frequently and carry a little squeeze bottle of hand sanitiser if you’re really worried”.

A good sanitising product readily available in the UK is ‘Flu Pak’, which can be bought at all good pharmacies and drug-shops, as well as online.

It is rude to refuse someone’s hand when proffered and this should be remembered at all times. On a medical note, swine flu is no different to normal influenza. Whilst it is harmful to pregnant mothers, the very young and the elderly, to everyone else, it is just the same as having common or garden flu. As with many recent diseases (I’m thinking bird flu) the media have been as helpful as ever in stirring up public paranoia with this disease.

Of course, if you have the disease then you should be in bed and not shaking hands with anyone, so it is a fair assumption to assume that people who have swine flu will not be proffering their hands to anyone.

John Robertson continues, “Shaking hands doesn’t give you the virus, it doesn’t pass through your skin. The infection is passed when you put your hands near your mouth or nose or your eyes. So wash your hands often and keep them away from your face; good advice at any time”.

It would seem the best antidote to swine flu is common sense.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Swearing: Think of Our Language!

Three in ten of us are subjected to swearing every five minutes, according to a recent report. When I was asked to comment on this for BBC Radio 5 Live the other day, my initial thoughts (apart from how bad this is) were for the English language itself. We have such a rich, vibrant and beautiful language and to limit it to a handful of words is such a pity.

People use the F-word and the like now as nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns and prepositions. We hear swearing on the television, in the cinema and on the street. These taboo words are not only unnecessary but also horrid for the ear: they have no mellifluous quality that some words do: none of us want to hear those abrasive sounds. Perhaps then they are well suited to their purpose.

But swearing all the time devalues it. There is (sometimes) a time and a place for the occasional swear word (although using a curse-word to describe someone is never acceptable). If someone who never swears does occasionally exclaim something a bit off-colour, then those around will know that the person is truly annoyed and angry But if we go about swearing left-right-and-centre, willy-nilly, then we automatically take away the gravitas and oomph that any invectives may have.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Modern Student

A teacher at my old school once remarked to me in a conversation about higher education, “University is a reward for the intellectual, where one can do as one pleases and do very little work for a period of three years”. However true or false this may be, it seems that many contemporary students have misinterpreted this concept. It is certainly not a rest or lapse period for decency and basic courtesy.

Student life is something that most of us have looked forward to from our early teens: we break away from our parents and begin to become our own person. We become domesticated, we become mature; we become adults. Alas, it isn’t quite as straight forward as that. The average student dresses in baggy, comfortable clothes, goes out drinking at least five times a week, and probably comes close to (or actually partakes) in dealing in substances of disrepute. We are only young once, however, so perhaps such behaviour is acceptable.

Yet, just because we are students, it doesn’t mean to say that we actually have to behave like them. Nevertheless, this is not a call for us to attend lectures in morning suits and address our peers with high reverence and grandiose language. A modern, savvy student is someone who respects and considers those around him. Many adults get cross with students and their lifestyle – perhaps they are jealous – they argue that they are slovenly and uncouth. Maybe they are right: there are times when one really doesn’t want to be formal or worry too much about what others think.

However, I argue that University is a journey, a bridge. It marks a transition between childhood and adulthood. There used to be no word for the inter-regnum, until someone created the concept of a ‘student’. A majority of students subconsciously believe that we become adults the moment we graduate, and this grants us with an excuse to behave as we wish for the three or four years in between. This is not the case. We become adults during the period of our enrolment. Some will grasp the (really quite straight forward) concepts of adulthood sooner than others.

As I say regularly, good manners are a skill for life, which will stand anyone in much better stead than any degree or qualification. Clarence Thomas said, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot”. Think what you could do with both.

NB: Educated people go to ‘University’. The rest go to ‘Uni’.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

The Top 5 Email Etiquette Faux Pas

E-mailMost of us will use email every day and this has led to a lapse in common sense and manners. Here are the top 5 faux pas when using email.

Hello! If you’ve never met the person you are emailing, starting the email with ‘Hello, Jack’ or ‘Hi Jill!’ is never acceptable and irritates more people than others may think

Spelling Emails are designed to be a quick way for us to communicate but that doesn’t mean that we are given an excuse to look ill-educated by sloppy spelling, especially when emailing clients or people who are not our friends or family (but you should practise using good spelling on them, too!)

Name-check When we see an email such as ‘alex.jones@…’ most of us will probably assume that Alex is a man. An increasing number of people are getting gender-confused on email. Always best to double-check. Telephone the company and ask before sending the email, or ask your colleagues who may have dealt with he/she before. Never start an email (or letter) with ‘Dear Jack Smith’. Find out the title in advance

Attachments ‘Please find attached’. If you say something is attached, make sure it is! Double-check everything before hitting the send button.

Ignoring emails If you get an email from a legitimate person, it’s common courtesy (although not common enough) to acknowledge it. Even if you’re the busiest person in the world, send back a response reassuring the sender you’ve got the email but will deal with it at a later date. This will save them worrying that their email is broken

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner

Thanks a Million

I was staying in a bed and breakfast earlier this week and my host and I started discussing good manners, in particular thank-you letters. She told me the most brilliant story, which shows that you should always write such letters after receiving a present or any sort of hospitality.

As children, her sister and her were always sent one pound for Christmas and respective birthdays from a distant relative on their father’s side. At the time, £1 was worth considerably more than it is today. The one-pound kept coming and both sisters wrote, without fail a letter to say thank you to the relative. By the time the sisters for in their mid-forties, the pounds were still being sent and one sister (not my host – her sibling) decided that it was a bit silly now as £1 wasn’t worth much at all and writing a thank-you letter was ridiculous. However, my host still kept on writing the letters.

One year, the money stopped. My host got a call from the relative’s solicitor to say that the relative had died and in her will had left her £250,000 but the other sister was left nothing. The will stated that my host had been left the money because she had “better manners and always said thank-you”.

William Hanson
Tutor, The English Manner


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