When and Why Did Elbows On The Table Become Bad ⋆

When and Why Did Elbows On The Table Become Bad

Actually, this has nothing to do with your mom’s opinion, elbows on tables have been considered rude across many cultures and throughout history.

As a matter of fact, the Book of Ecclesiasticus in the Old Testament warns of the perils from putting your elbows on the table and in 1530, the Dutch philosopher Erasmus repeated the same rule in the Handbook “Good Manners for Children”.

This is a rule for both the young and adults with possibly the exception of the elderly or impaired people.  Even those who are proclaimed etiquette experts, such as Emily Post, advise that good manners should always follow us through our lives.

That said, why are elbows on a table considered rude?

Well, Here Are The Reasons Why:

One reason, during early civilization, it was believed that elbows on the table would lead to violent actions. The creation of table manners prevented people from leaving the table and getting into a fight.  It was important, back then just like now,  you are seen as someone who is considerate and working hard to develop good manners.

Look at it this way, the placement of the knife and fork at a table setting is actually serving as a boundary for the amount of space you have at the table.  Disobeying the rules for civilized order is considered unhinged and others will not know what you are capable of getting away with.

Bad manners scared other people because they had no idea what these unhinged people were capable of doing next.

I doubt in this day and age, we are quite as concerned about someone lunging forward during a business luncheon that has gone south.  But, before deciding to just land your elbows on the table, there still is a degree in which this rule applies.

Even though this action dates back to various cultures, according to Henry Hitchings, author of his book regarding Good manners! still holds true. The rule about elbows on the table brings up the idea that during a meal, others should not be inconvenienced and that a meal is still considered a formal occasion and therefore should not be conducted in a poor fashion.

Keeping elbows off the table will avoid transgressions by disrupting other’s space and comfort.

In this day and age, elbows on the table will not lead to dishonor to the family because, in general, manners are not carved in stone.  While elbows on the table are seen as sloppy and ill-mannered, there are several experts that elbows on the table can be seen as being engaged in a conversation and many of these etiquette experts do not follow the rule anymore.

According to the Emily Post Institutes’ Golden Rules, being considerate, respectful, and honest is a great deal more important than which fork to use!  A handshake is still considered a sign of consideration or ensuring the other party you are of your word.

Therefore, where once upon a time, having an elbow show up on the table while using a butter knife, is no longer considered menacing, but during a conversation, it seems just about anything goes.

I would suggest, if you are attending a high-end affair, please leave your elbows off the table, you might not form a very good impression from your date.