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View Full Version : Cultures whose etiquette is rooted in now-inapplicable cultural situations


Mister Rik
11-27-2014, 08:18 PM
Inspired by the "cultures in which people don't line up" thread, I want to ask about cultural/national etiquette that started with some long-ago situation that no longer applies, yet the etiquette/tradition remains.

Two Japanese examples I've read about:

Eating a bite of rice in between each bite of other foods. This allegedly started during a famine a couple hundred years ago, in which pretty much every crop failed ... except for the rice crop. The failure of other crops also led to a meat shortage, because there was little feed for cattle. So began a habit of alternating mouthfuls of rice with mouthfuls of other items, the idea being that the rice would fill you up and you wouldn't eat as much of the more-scarce foods.

Talking "around" the topic, instead of speaking directly to the point. This is allegedly rooted in the old Japanese house style wherein, instead of walls, the "rooms" were separated by paper partitions. In such a house, privacy was an illusion, because everybody could hear everything being said/being done in the next room. This led to the polite fiction that you didn't hear anything, as well as creating a conversational style that uses euphemism and indirect reference, so as to create "plausible deniability". i.e. "No, that's not what I was talking about (but yeah, that's exactly what I was talking about)."

Assuming the above examples are indeed true (and I would appreciate it if somebody more familiar with Japanese culture would correct me, in the name of fighting ignorance), what are some examples from other cultures? Some etiquette tradition started with something that is no longer relevant, yet the tradition remains?

Hilarity N. Suze
11-27-2014, 09:55 PM
The eating thing does not really seem like etiquette--just a way to eat. Just as valid now as any time. I would think in times of famine you might want to have two mouthfuls of rice. I was under the impression that lots of people (not just Japanese) ate mostly or only rice during times of general famine, and considered themselves lucky to have something.

As to the other thing, I don't see why this would be considered no longer relevant. It seems awkward to be sure, but if that's how your culture does things, well then, that's how it does things. Only perplexing to those not of that culture. There are still a lot of people in Japan and maybe not a lot of privacy. If it's no longer relevant to the people who are doing it, they will change it.

even sven
11-27-2014, 10:07 PM
In China, at a nice banquet rice will only be served toward the end of the meal, and it's impolite to eat much of it. Taking a lot of rice would imply the host was being cheap and didn't provide enough of the "good stuff" to fill you up.

I am sure there are some American examples. I think the theory behind not eating with your elbows on the table is that a working person's elbows are likely to be petty dirty, and would quickly soil the table linens. Few of us have particularly dirty elbows these days.

even sven
11-27-2014, 10:11 PM
Weddings have a lot of baggage from the days when marriages were more like property transfers. A father "giving away" a full grown women may be sentimentally sweet, but objectively it's pretty bizarre.

Mister Rik
11-27-2014, 10:16 PM
The eating thing does not really seem like etiquette--just a way to eat. Just as valid now as any time. I would think in times of famine you might want to have two mouthfuls of rice. I was under the impression that lots of people (not just Japanese) ate mostly or only rice during times of general famine, and considered themselves lucky to have something.

The source I read (sorry, no link/cite, it was a physical book which I no longer possess, and I can't recall the title) explicitly stated that the custom began in response to an actual famine, and then carried on until more modern times. Because, "that's how it's done."

njtt
11-27-2014, 10:41 PM
The source I read (sorry, no link/cite, it was a physical book which I no longer possess, and I can't recall the title) explicitly stated that the custom began in response to an actual famine, and then carried on until more modern times. Because, "that's how it's done."

It seems like a needlessly over elaborate and implausible explanation of a behavior that is perfectly sensible in its own right. Are you suggesting that it would be "normal" to eat all the fish (or whatever) first, then all the rice, or vice versa? I am not Japanese, but I would be more inclined to do it the way you say they actually do. (Even more likely, I would take a bit of fish and some rice in the same mouthful, a behavior that is just as readily, or as poorly, explained by the "ancient famine" theory as the behavior you say it actually explains.)

That said, I expect any culture that is in a state of fairly rapid change, which means all cultures that are more or less part of the "modern world", has many customs the fit the description in your thread title. Of course, it is relatively difficult to recognize such incongruities in our own culture, but there are probably lots of them. I suppose that is why so many things about Japanese culture, in particular, seem weird to us Westerners, as they are are modern rapidly changing culture, but one that started from a very different place from where we did. It is not just that they are an alien culture, but that they have hangover customs and attitudes that do not actually fit well with how they now live, but in a way that we can see much better than they can.(No doubt much about our culture seems equally weird and dysfunctional to them.) The thing about taking alternate mouthfuls of rice just does not seem to be a very good example, though.

xnylder
11-28-2014, 11:11 AM
One from the province of Quebec is the "banc de queteux (http://www.michelprince.ca/en/tips-and-tricks/une-petite-histoire-de-queteux.-1120.html)", or roughly "beggar's bench". Homes in the countryside would have a bench just inside the front door, in what we'd call the vestibule or mudroom, for a beggar to sleep on in case they came by on a cold winter's night. This was not only an expression of charity, but also of superstition, because refusing this request was said to be very bad luck. Of course, people still have these benches to make it easier to pull on boots and such. They're still called by the old name, but I doubt anyone would uphold that much hospitality today.

chappachula
11-28-2014, 11:13 AM
Guns.

America has a gun culture that is totally different than any other country, and is rooted in now-inapplicable situations. The wild west was a short period in American history, but the effects on American culture and etiquette have lasted long after that period ended.





(note: folks, let's not get into a gun debate here, okay? This is a thead about culture and etiquette.)

md2000
11-28-2014, 11:35 AM
I picked up an interesting book, "Dancing With a Ghost" after hearing an interview with the author on CBC radio.

http://www.amazon.ca/Dancing-Ghost-Exploring-Indian-Reality/dp/0143054260/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417190803&sr=8-1&keywords=dancing+with+a+ghost
As a Crown Attorney working with First Nations in remote northwestern Ontario, Rupert Ross learned that he was routinely misinterpreting the behaviour of Aboriginal victims, witnesses, and offenders, both in and out of court. He discovered that he regularly drew wrong conclusions when he encountered witnesses who wouldn’t make eye contact, victims who wouldn’t testify in the presence of the accused, and parents who showed great reluctance to interfere in their children’s offending behaviour.

The Cree attitude (probably similar to others across the world) evolved to handle dynamics of a small group that needed to cooperate to get along. Our concept of revenge is fairly alien to them. Rather than argue, they sit down and talk until everyone agrees. Instead of physical discipline, social pressure and disapproving looks are the means to channel good behaviour. After all, when all the men have to cooperate in a hunting party, they cannot be coming to blows, ignoring each other, or challenging who's in charge. When everyone has to pull their weight every day, you cannot have people moping or depressed - when someone dies, they make an effort to erase all reminders of them. Same when someone hurts another - there's no anger or confrontation, everyone sits down and talks around the problem until it's "forgotten" so everyone can get on with living. After all, they had no jails, and there were limited options for punishing - either kill the offender (only if it was very extreme) or forget about it. So they forget about something, and then a year or more later the white man gets around to his trial, they make everyone re-live and talk about something swept under the rug long ago, and then put a white man's punishment on the guy, which makes no sense to them. Things we consider "honesty" like looking someone in they eyes, could be considered confrontational and challenging in their culture and so avoided.

This fell apart when the social groups became reserves of hundreds or a few thousand. Problem group members instead of being part of the common group, would hang out together and be out of the control or guidance of the elders, so they did not get the social pressure to conform; but the tribes could not bring themselves to use more coercive measures like corporal punishment, so gangs became a problem. Instead of disapproval from the community majority, problem kids hung around with others and became out of control. He mentions a case where the parents were asked what steps they tok to control their seriously delinquent son, and the only thing they said was "we hid his shoes" so he could not sneak out at night. No confrontation, no discipline.

Communal property was a concept for a small group. If you aren't using your knife and someone else needs it, they take it. Groups that moved camp every few weeks did not accumulate possessions. That lack or respect for personal possessions did not translate well with a permanent community of thousands and modern material possessions.

If you think repressing these feelings and problems was unhealthy - well yes. When Indians get drunk, it releases their inhibitions, and all the socially repressed resentment bubbles to the surface and they will stab each other during drinking parties and regret it the next morning. Then... the white man's justice steps in and see the first paragraph...

He mentions a classic case, where northern natives came down to stay on a reserve near Montreal for a hockey tournament. The northern hunting tribe's feasting tradition was to eat everything put in front of you, because food was scarce and not to be wasted. The southern tribe had a more agricultural tradition, so in their feasts you dishonoured the guest and appeared cheap or petty if you did not put out more food than they could eat. So they start the party, and the hosts keep bringing out food, and the guests feel obliged to eat it. (Much like when you visit your Greek or Italian grandmother...) At a certain point resentment starts to bubble up. The northerners feel "OK, were done, stop forcing food on us" and the southerners figure "hey, at a certain point you're supposed to politely decline any more..." Eventually someone figures out what's going on and eases the tension, but it was a definite clash of cultures.

skdo23
11-28-2014, 12:18 PM
America has a gun culture that is totally different than any other country, and is rooted in now-inapplicable situations. The wild west was a short period in American history, but the effects on American culture and etiquette have lasted long after that period ended.

Inapplicable?!!

Private gun ownership is the only thing preventing jackbooted thugs from kicking down your front door in the middle of the night and offering you an affordable health plan that covers pre-existing conditions - you know, the type that Jesus specifically forbade when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

Nefario
11-28-2014, 12:26 PM
I traveled to China on business and the host company took us out to eat - quite informal and not particularly expensive. We were served as a group with several dishes and a bowl of rice brought to the table. They seemed amused when I took the last 2-3 items from from a large serving platter. I noticed that none of the Chinese ever "cleaned" any of the serving dishes.

I was never sure if I was impolite or that they were surprised that a westerner really liked their food.

jtur88
11-28-2014, 12:27 PM
In Hong Kong, people still have a "rat board" in their doorway. It's a cut piece of 1x10 fitted flush with the floor inside the front door, presumably to keep rats from running in the door when it is opened. My friend, a young single man in his 30s, living on the 40th floor, had a rat board in his doorway. People have to step over it to get through the door, and foreigners forget (to which I can attest).

MichaelEmouse
11-28-2014, 12:37 PM
I traveled to China on business and the host company took us out to eat - quite informal and not particularly expensive. We were served as a group with several dishes and a bowl of rice brought to the table. They seemed amused when I took the last 2-3 items from from a large serving platter. I noticed that none of the Chinese ever "cleaned" any of the serving dishes.

I was never sure if I was impolite or that they were surprised that a westerner really liked their food.

In China, a lot of etiquette consists in making offerings to appear generous and in refusing them to avoid appearing greedy. Taking the last items risks making someone appear greedy.

I do wonder what happens to the systematically-left-on-the-table food items. In a country like China, it seems people wouldn't want to waste food. Perhaps they're eaten in private later by the host?

Is it the same in restaurants in China, people systematically leave food on their plate to avoid appearing greedy?

Colibri
11-28-2014, 12:53 PM
Guns.

America has a gun culture that is totally different than any other country, and is rooted in now-inapplicable situations. The wild west was a short period in American history, but the effects on American culture and etiquette have lasted long after that period ended.





(note: folks, let's not get into a gun debate here, okay? This is a thead about culture and etiquette.)

Moderating

If you don't want to start a debate, I'm not sure why you would bring up the subject at all. In any case, I'll reiterate the final sentence and ask not to begin any debate on the subject.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

buddha_david
11-28-2014, 12:57 PM
People still shake hands, even though everyone knows that's how the majority of infectious diseases are spread. Come to think, the shaking hands custom came about as a way to show the other guy that you're not about to kill him with a weapon -- which, these days, may actually still be appropriate.

Colibri
11-28-2014, 12:58 PM
Inapplicable?!!

Private gun ownership is the only thing preventing jackbooted thugs from kicking down your front door in the middle of the night and offering you an affordable health plan that covers pre-existing conditions - you know, the type that Jesus specifically forbade when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.

I know this is a joke, but let's drop the subject in general.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

even sven
11-28-2014, 01:04 PM
In China, a lot of etiquette consists in making offerings to appear generous and in refusing them to avoid appearing greedy. Taking the last items risks making someone appear greedy.



I do wonder what happens to the systematically-left-on-the-table food items. In a country like China, it seems people wouldn't want to waste food. Perhaps they're eaten in private later by the host?



Is it the same in restaurants in China, people systematically leave food on their plate to avoid appearing greedy?


The theory is that taking the last portion implies that the host is a bad host, as a successful host serves so much food that it is impossible to finish. A good banquet will have a near constant flow of food, with the waitstaff constantly removing and rearranging dishes as the table becomes so full even stacking the dishes won't accommodate everything.

Leftovers at banquets may be discretely boxed up. My old boss used to feed his dog quite lavishly on banquet leftovers, which was a running joke among his peers. I'm sure anything not taken home is consumed one way or another, even if it ends up being fed to the pigs.

At restaurants with family or personal friends (not people you work with or are otherwise trying to impress), it;s pretty much okay to clean out a plate (though if you are routinely clearing plates, you probably need to order a bit more.)

Mijin
11-28-2014, 01:29 PM
There's another explanation or the china thing (although less relevant to the OP).

Eating from a shared dish is much more common in China than in the West.

And taking the last portion of a shared dish is slightly awkward everywhere because you are taking away the option of eating any more of that dish from other people.

Smapti
11-28-2014, 01:34 PM
In English, one generally uses the terms "sir" or "madam" to politely address a superior or a friendly stranger, despite it being unlikely that either one is a member of the nobility.

even sven
11-28-2014, 01:45 PM
In English, one generally uses the terms "sir" or "madam" to politely address a superior or a friendly stranger, despite it being unlikely that either one is a member of the nobility.


Miss and Mrs. are pretty outdated as well. There was a time when a woman's marital status was THE essential bit of information on them, and would guide your interaction. Now, outside of romantic settings, it's unimportant.

Procrustus
11-28-2014, 01:55 PM
People still shake hands, even though everyone knows that's how the majority of infectious diseases are spread. Come to think, the shaking hands custom came about as a way to show the other guy that you're not about to kill him with a weapon -- which, these days, may actually still be appropriate.

I did not know that the majority of infectious debases are spread via hand shakes.
I agree with the general premise, however. Shaking hands is a strange custom in modern times. I don't like it.

LC Strawhouse
11-28-2014, 01:59 PM
what are some examples from other cultures? Some etiquette tradition started with something that is no longer relevant, yet the tradition remains?

Does saying "Hi Opal" count?

TSBG
11-28-2014, 02:08 PM
Not sure this is a cultural tradition or just something my family does, but I have a notion it was imported from Italy. My grandparents would always refuse, at a minimum, at least one offer of food or drink.

"Have some lemonade!"

"No thank you, I'm not thirsty."

"But it's so hot!"

"Really, I'm fine."

"Please let me know if you change your mind."

"Well, maybe I'll have a little."

According to my mother, her mother was at least once stymied when she visited a non-Italian couple who took her initial refusal of a drink as the final word on the matter...

I don't know what this custom might have been meant to accomplish, but it doesn't do much now. I'm always annoyed when I find myself doing it. I *do* want that lemonade!

The corollary is a sort of constant checking in to see if a guest wants something.

"Do you want more lemonade?"

"No thank you."

"Just a little? I'm not going to drink it..." &c.

Malthus
11-28-2014, 03:19 PM
My favorite example in the industial world comes from Primo Levy's The Periodic Table (I think - anyway, from Levy). He was a chemist in Italy right after WW2, working in a chemical plant that made paints and varnishes, under some very primitive post-war conditions.

Many years later, he came back to the plant (now much more modern) for a visit ... and was surpised to see the workers there tossing an onion into the hot varnish. Why, he asked, were they doing that? They told him that it was in the recepie they were using - it said to toss an onion into the varnish as it heated up.

Thing is, Levy had written that recepie - and the point of tossing an onion in was that, at the time (rght after WW2), the plant lacked such niceties as thermometers - the way to tell if the varnish was hot enough was to watch the onion - when it started to fry, the varnish was done.

Years later, of course, the plant had sophisticated temperature controls and no need for frying onions - but because it was in the recepie, the onion was added to each batch.

robert_columbia
11-28-2014, 04:00 PM
Guns.

America has a gun culture that is totally different than any other country, and is rooted in now-inapplicable situations. The wild west was a short period in American history, but the effects on American culture and etiquette have lasted long after that period ended.





(note: folks, let's not get into a gun debate here, okay? This is a thead about culture and etiquette.)

Yes, this is a good example. And no, let's not debate guns here. The culture and history is as it is.

I have read that American gun culture, in addition to drawing from local needs, was also based on Scottish survivalist practices from older times that were brought over when so many poor Scottish peasants left their home for greener pa$ture$ and went into them thar mountains of Appalachia and started a system of strong extended family kinship relationships and emphasis on defense and combat that is strikingly similar to certain Scottish practices.

robert_columbia
11-28-2014, 04:07 PM
People who write emails using traditional English letter-writing styles such as writing Dear SoAndSo, blah blah blah, Sincerely, HugeAsshole. That information is already in the email header and is arguably unnecessary. But for a paper letter, having the names and/or addresses of the sender and recipient could be helpful for formulating a reply and/or recalling information later when the letter is pulled out again. Nowadays, all that info is right in the message headers.

Zsofia
11-28-2014, 05:02 PM
Telephone etiquette for personal calls. It's one of those weird-ass things. It took me forever to stop asking "may I please speak to ___" when I called somebody on their cell - what, I don't know, maybe somebody else picked it up! Just saying "hey" seems so rude! And THEN I had to get rid of "This is ___" because people like my nephew just sigh and say "I KNOW, Aunt Zsofia." So for friends and family I gave it up.

And then I had to call a coworker/friend who refuses to get a cell phone, and it was a landline! And her husband answered! And I was all "uhhhh...." because somehow my brain forgot to say "Hi, may I speak to ___?" Even though I do it at work all the time, of course.

Scumpup
11-28-2014, 06:19 PM
Guns.

America has a gun culture that is totally different than any other country, and is rooted in now-inapplicable situations. The wild west was a short period in American history, but the effects on American culture and etiquette have lasted long after that period ended.





(note: folks, let's not get into a gun debate here, okay? This is a thead about culture and etiquette.)

Meaning you get to pull this assertion out of your ass, but anybody who responds to it is derailing. Got it.:rolleyes:

Mister Rik
11-28-2014, 06:35 PM
People still shake hands, even though everyone knows that's how the majority of infectious diseases are spread. Come to think, the shaking hands custom came about as a way to show the other guy that you're not about to kill him with a weapon -- which, these days, may actually still be appropriate.

I saw yesterday some literature at the retirement home where I work, encouraging seniors to adopt a version of the "fist bump" in place of handshakes. The idea, apparently, is briefer contact + not touching palms will reduce the likelihood of germs spreading.

scr4
11-28-2014, 06:48 PM
• Eating a bite of rice in between each bite of other foods. This allegedly started during a famine a couple hundred years ago, in which pretty much every crop failed ... except for the rice crop.

I'm from Japan and never heard this. And it sounds like a contrived explanation at something that doesn't need an explanation. White rice doesn't have a very strong flavor. If you have white rice and other dishes, it makes no sense to finish one before starting the other. You'd alternate frequently (or occasionally) so your mouth doesn't get over-stimulated by the strong flavor of the side dish, or bored by the white rice.

Also, if you eat at an izakaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya) or any upscale restaurant or hotel, they don't bring out the rice until the very end of the meal. (Not white rice by itself though. Usually white rice + pickled vegetables + miso soup, at hotels and traditional Japanese meals. Usually some other rice-based dish at izakayas.)

I suppose the pickled vegetables may be considered an obsolete custom, since fresh vegetables are available year-round now. Then again, the same could be said of Western pickled vegetables, preserves, cured meats, etc.

Mister Rik
11-28-2014, 10:21 PM
I'm from Japan and never heard this.

Thanks for clearing it up :) IIRC, it was an older book I read that in, like, from the 1960s, or maybe even the '50s. I could see some misunderstanding there, given the brief span of time covering friendly relations with Japan at that point.

chappachula
11-29-2014, 03:47 AM
Meaning you get to pull this assertion out of your ass, but anybody who responds to it is derailing. Got it.:rolleyes:

no---what I meant is that I don't want this thread to derail into a 2nd ammendment/gun rights thread.


I mentioned "gun culture" as an example of what the OP is looking for: cultural values that originated for good reasons, but those reasons are inapplicable today.

I intended my remarks to be an American version of the examples in other posts about chinese eating habits which developed during time of famine.Society has changed, but the etiquette hasn't.

Similary, America's gun culture developed from the days of the wild west, and was reasonable for society at that time. But society has changed, yet the gun etiquette hasn't.

kaylasdad99
11-29-2014, 04:07 AM
I am sure there are some American examples. I think the theory behind not eating with your elbows on the table is that a working person's elbows are likely to be petty dirty, and would quickly soil the table linens. Few of us have particularly dirty elbows these days. I remember reading a different origin story for that, possibly here on the SDMB:

In situations where a dining table was simply a couple of long planks laid across two sawhorses and covered with a cloth, elbows on the table was a pretty effective way of knocking everything to the ground.

jovan
11-29-2014, 04:11 AM
Thanks for clearing it up :) IIRC, it was an older book I read that in, like, from the 1960s, or maybe even the '50s. I could see some misunderstanding there, given the brief span of time covering friendly relations with Japan at that point.

Yeah, I'll second what scr4 wrote. Never heard this. You do hear that it's important to "cycle" through your food, but the reasons given usually have to do with digestion.

As far as the influence of traditional houses and their paper walls, I've read a Japanese book by an architect that made the argument that this was a major factor in shaping Japanese culture. Other people don't go so far in their assessment, though. As far as "talking around" goes, you'll find that the culture will vary from region to region. In Kyoto, people notoriously talk in a manner so indirect that many Japanese need "translators." "Your project is... different" means "your plans are hideous get the fuck out of my office." "The music was nice" means "that was the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my life. I can die in peace." The reason given for this culture is that Kyoto was for a long time the political centre of Japan, and after centuries of instability people learned to talk in an ambivalent way. Osaka is right next to Kyoto, but it has always been a merchant's city and there people much, much more extroverted.

Hilarity N. Suze
11-29-2014, 04:31 AM
I am sure there are some American examples. I think the theory behind not eating with your elbows on the table is that a working person's elbows are likely to be petty dirty, and would quickly soil the table linens. Few of us have particularly dirty elbows these days.

So there are places where it's okay to put your elbows on the table?

(I know there are places where it's okay to eat with your hands. I haven't been to any of these places. I was shocked when I was given a pear for dessert in Italy--a whole, unpeeled, pear--along with a knife and fork. Other people were cutting their pears. That seemed like the thing to do, so I did it. So obviously, that was a place where you didn't eat ANYTHING with your hands, even a delicious pear.)

I digress a little but I guess I associate "no elbows on table" with "use dining implements even for fried chicken." Company etiquette. Just casually, we actually don't care if someone's elbows are on the table.

Princhester
11-29-2014, 06:25 AM
My favorite example in the industial world comes from Primo Levy's The Periodic Table (I think - anyway, from Levy). He was a chemist in Italy right after WW2, working in a chemical plant that made paints and varnishes, under some very primitive post-war conditions.

Many years later, he came back to the plant (now much more modern) for a visit ... and was surpised to see the workers there tossing an onion into the hot varnish. Why, he asked, were they doing that? They told him that it was in the recepie they were using - it said to toss an onion into the varnish as it heated up.

Thing is, Levy had written that recepie - and the point of tossing an onion in was that, at the time (rght after WW2), the plant lacked such niceties as thermometers - the way to tell if the varnish was hot enough was to watch the onion - when it started to fry, the varnish was done.

Years later, of course, the plant had sophisticated temperature controls and no need for frying onions - but because it was in the recepie, the onion was added to each batch.

You're conflating two parts of his story Chromium here. Primo didn't write the recipe including the onion, he just came across the recipe and was later told the reason for the onion. But in the later (and main) part of the story he tells the tale of introducing an ingredient into a paint recipe himself, which remained in the recipe despite the reason for him introducing it long being redundant.

It's my favourite story by my favourite author.

Jragon
11-29-2014, 06:46 AM
In Kyoto, people notoriously talk in a manner so indirect that many Japanese need "translators." "Your project is... different" means "your plans are hideous get the fuck out of my office." "The music was nice" means "that was the most beautiful thing I ever heard in my life. I can die in peace."

I had a couple teachers from Osaka that made a few digs at Kyoto, one of them was "that's may be a little difficult" means "are you kidding, boss? I don't think that's even fucking possible."

Xema
11-29-2014, 07:49 AM
Similary, America's gun culture developed from the days of the wild west
Right - wasn't Wyatt Earp one of the principal advocates for adoption of the second amendment?

Scumpup
11-29-2014, 07:56 AM
no---what I meant is that I don't want this thread to derail into a 2nd ammendment/gun rights thread.


I mentioned "gun culture" as an example of what the OP is looking for: cultural values that originated for good reasons, but those reasons are inapplicable today.

I intended my remarks to be an American version of the examples in other posts about chinese eating habits which developed during time of famine.Society has changed, but the etiquette hasn't.

Similary, America's gun culture developed from the days of the wild west, and was reasonable for society at that time. But society has changed, yet the gun etiquette hasn't.

Stop babbling about "the wild west," please.

John Mace
11-29-2014, 09:22 AM
I'm from Japan and never heard this. And it sounds like a contrived explanation at something that doesn't need an explanation. White rice doesn't have a very strong flavor. If you have white rice and other dishes, it makes no sense to finish one before starting the other. You'd alternate frequently (or occasionally) so your mouth doesn't get over-stimulated by the strong flavor of the side dish, or bored by the white rice.

Also, if you eat at an izakaya (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Izakaya) or any upscale restaurant or hotel, they don't bring out the rice until the very end of the meal. (Not white rice by itself though. Usually white rice + pickled vegetables + miso soup, at hotels and traditional Japanese meals. Usually some other rice-based dish at izakayas.)

I'm not from Japan, but I spent a lot of time there, and this is exactly what I was going to say after reading the OP. The only thing I'd add is that sometimes you get (cold) soba instead of rice at the end of the meal. And if you don't like cold soba (which I don't) and if you had a very satisfying meal, it's pretty tough to eat the soba. Try eating something you don't like when you aren't hungry! :)

md2000
11-29-2014, 10:06 AM
Exactly - the second amendment came from several circumstances. (Canadian, so I really don't care about current gun debate down there).

The original settlers in the somewhat wild east needed guns to hunt, and the locals whom they were stealing the land from tended to take offense quite regularly. (I'm sure we can dredge up multiple instances of cultural clashes leading to outright confrontation). Between the need for isolated outposts and farms to defend themselves, the need for hunting, and the recently concluded evidence of hostile acts by the government of the day, they felt it necessary to say that locals should keep their own guns. Wild west was a result of the culture, not a cause of it.

It's interesting to speculate why the same did not happen for Canada or Australia as settlers spread west, but that's an exercise for another day, another thread.

* * * *

generally, customs evolve to formalize how to behave to avoid clashes and misunderstandings. Often this includes an equitable distribution of scarcity - lining up, not taking the last food, politely offering more or declining extra, shaking hands, polite greetings to set the tone of an encounter, etc. You are always going to have differences where the custom applies in one culture because the situation historically applied, but not to another culture.

Laws and customs have also emerged to handle new situations. What was applicable to ox-drawn carts, for example, doesn't translate to much faster automobiles.

A classic culture clash, which I first heard in the 1970's and has been repeated quite often, regards "personal space". Someone who worked in the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, IIRC, mentioned that Europeans tend to converse with about 3 feet separation. Arabs, OTOH, converse with a foot or so separation, which makes the British uncomfortable. So at formal parties, the British person is talking with the Saudi. The Saudi moves in closer to converse, the Brit backs up, and so on until you have these very uncomfortable Brits backed up against the wall. where they can't back up any further, with a Saudi sticking his face in their personal space.

John Mace
11-29-2014, 10:57 AM
Exactly - the second amendment came from several circumstances. (Canadian, so I really don't care about current gun debate down there).

The original settlers in the somewhat wild east needed guns to hunt, and the locals whom they were stealing the land from tended to take offense quite regularly. (I'm sure we can dredge up multiple instances of cultural clashes leading to outright confrontation). Between the need for isolated outposts and farms to defend themselves, the need for hunting, and the recently concluded evidence of hostile acts by the government of the day, they felt it necessary to say that locals should keep their own guns. Wild west was a result of the culture, not a cause of it.

It's interesting to speculate why the same did not happen for Canada or Australia as settlers spread west, but that's an exercise for another day, another thread.

You guys should read posts #14 and #16.

Colibri
11-29-2014, 10:59 AM
Meaning you get to pull this assertion out of your ass, but anybody who responds to it is derailing. Got it.:rolleyes:

Stop babbling about "the wild west," please.

Moderator Warning

Scumpup, you've been here long enough to know personal attacks are not permitted in General Questions. This is an official warning for being a jerk. Do not do this again.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Malthus
11-30-2014, 01:13 PM
You're conflating two parts of his story Chromium here. Primo didn't write the recipe including the onion, he just came across the recipe and was later told the reason for the onion. But in the later (and main) part of the story he tells the tale of introducing an ingredient into a paint recipe himself, which remained in the recipe despite the reason for him introducing it long being redundant.

It's my favourite story by my favourite author.

Could well be - I haven't read the story in many years, my memory of it is pretty vague. Though now I'm inspired to re-read it - Levy is indeed an awesome author. :D

DataX
11-30-2014, 02:09 PM
I saw yesterday some literature at the retirement home where I work, encouraging seniors to adopt a version of the "fist bump" in place of handshakes. The idea, apparently, is briefer contact + not touching palms will reduce the likelihood of germs spreading.

I've had doctors do this to me - so at least some of them seem to like the practice

Nava
11-30-2014, 02:20 PM
A classic culture clash, which I first heard in the 1970's and has been repeated quite often, regards "personal space". Someone who worked in the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia, IIRC, mentioned that Europeans tend to converse with about 3 feet separation. Arabs, OTOH, converse with a foot or so separation, which makes the British uncomfortable. So at formal parties, the British person is talking with the Saudi. The Saudi moves in closer to converse, the Brit backs up, and so on until you have these very uncomfortable Brits backed up against the wall. where they can't back up any further, with a Saudi sticking his face in their personal space.

3 feet is a lot further than I'm used to, but often it isn't even a matter of space. Many Europeans have trouble with Americans impinging in our personal space while actually standing a lot further than we do. I spent years trying to rationalize why and being unable to do so, I think it may have to do with the speeds: Americans tend to move at constant speeds and stop suddenly, whereas we would start signaling "I see you, I'm stopping, I'm just getting close enough that we won't be standing in the middle of the way" a couple of meters back.

EdwinAmi
12-01-2014, 02:24 AM
GOD BLESS YOU

OMG It's the WEIRDEST etiquette thingy when you think about it. Why the hell do we have to say something after someone performs a bodily function? It's so WEIRD! All the other etiquette stuff we do is chained to SOME concrete thing that has to do with the nature of the human social interaction, but god bless you is just randomly thrown in there.

it's inapplicable now because we now know how disease/pestilence works, whereas medieval peoples thought it was caused by "bad spirits" or whatever. So we now know there's nothing you can say that effects a disease.

TruCelt
12-01-2014, 09:33 AM
Visiting the homes of various Irish language tutors, I noticed that all of them spoke to their dogs in English, and to their cats in Irish. It was explained to me that this is a result of the penal years, when speaking Irish was a hanging offense. One speaks to the cat only at home, so it's safe to use the "private" language. Working with the dog out in the fields made Irish commands much too dangerous.

It's common in the USA for parents to teach their children to eat everything on their plates, even on pain of violent punishment, or being forced to sit before the plate for hours. (These extremes are far less common in the current generation.) This is a result of the Great Depression, when food was scarce even in formerly well-off families, and adults were faced with regretting having wasted food when they were younger.

This has now been passed down into the third and fourth generation, with most folks now having no idea where it comes from. It can be a real problem for those who never confront and disabuse themselves of the requirement, especially given the insanely large portions provided by so many restaurants. I've seen co-workers in physical pain having unconsciously forced themselves to finish an over-large meal.

Machine Elf
12-01-2014, 10:11 AM
Some Arab and Indian cultures have a taboo about touching food with one's left hand - because the left hand is reserved for toilet-related hygene duty. My assumption is that the taboo persists even in places where using a bidet and/or toilet paper (instead of your bare left hand) and washing your hands after using the toilet has become the norm.

Leaffan
12-01-2014, 10:15 AM
Hey, how about not having a 13th floor? Oh, you're on the 14th floor? The one after the 12th? No problem!

Jesus Christ.

Really Not All That Bright
12-01-2014, 10:40 AM
Some Arab and Indian cultures have a taboo about touching food with one's left hand - because the left hand is reserved for toilet-related hygene duty. My assumption is that the taboo persists even in places where using a bidet and/or toilet paper (instead of your bare left hand) and washing your hands after using the toilet has become the norm.
It does. I was taught to eat one handed (at least when not using a knife and fork) even though my parents had emigrated from India 8 years before I was born and had enthusiastically adopted toilet paper more or less immediately.

sbunny8
12-01-2014, 10:58 AM
How about the adage "women and children first", which makes perfect sense if you're in a small tribe of 300 people. If your tribe consists of 100 adult men, 100 adult women, and 50 little boys and 50 little girls, and then some catastrophe comes along that will definitely kill 30 people, who should be the first to die? The tribe can afford to lose 30 men and have a better chance at long-term survival than if they had lost 30 women or 30 children or 10 men 10 women 10 children. But when you're part of a country of several million and you put a thousand upper class rich people onto a cruise ship which doesn't have enough life boats, the long term survival of the tribe is not significantly threatened regardless of who you let into the life boats.

chappachula
12-01-2014, 11:00 AM
Hey, how about not having a 13th floor?
You're right that this is stupid. But it doesn't fit the requirements of the OP, which asks for things that are no longer relevant.
The fear of the 13th floor (and the number 13 in general) was never applicable to a certain cultural situation....it was always stupid. And still is. :)

robert_columbia
12-01-2014, 12:42 PM
The Qur'an (Surah 4, An-Nisa) states that polygamy is justified because it provides a form of welfare for orphan girls. Nowadays, girls have a lot more opportunities for economic stability other than joining a harem.

Diceman
12-01-2014, 12:47 PM
Regarding the Seconds Ammendment business, I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room: America, as a culture, has a deep-seated distrust of the government. We tend to view it as a necessary evil, and nothing more. This goes all the way back to colonial times, when we had a revolution because the Crown was being an intolerable asshole in the way they were treating the colonies.

Whether this attitude is outdated is another question entirely.

Malthus
12-01-2014, 12:58 PM
How about the adage "women and children first", which makes perfect sense if you're in a small tribe of 300 people. If your tribe consists of 100 adult men, 100 adult women, and 50 little boys and 50 little girls, and then some catastrophe comes along that will definitely kill 30 people, who should be the first to die? The tribe can afford to lose 30 men and have a better chance at long-term survival than if they had lost 30 women or 30 children or 10 men 10 women 10 children. But when you're part of a country of several million and you put a thousand upper class rich people onto a cruise ship which doesn't have enough life boats, the long term survival of the tribe is not significantly threatened regardless of who you let into the life boats.

The adage was never based on direct genetic survival, but rather on notions of galantry and honour as a social norm. Having people believe in gallantry and honour as a social norm has obvious benefits for that society - for example, it forms the basis of the type of social subornination that makes an army formidable.

The "women and children first" thing is directly tied to that - that exact phrase was derived from the Birkenhead disaster:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Birkenhead_(1845)

It was eulogized at the time as an example of military discipline - the understanding being, of course, that a society that creates soldiers with the discipline to "stand an' be still to the Birkenhead Drill", as Kipling put it, would be better at defeating other societies in battle, than ones that could not.

This was later generalized to being the society that could produce men that have such discipline would be better off, and the "Birkenhead Drill" of 'women and children first' came to be applied generally.

Which, one could point out, is perfectly sexist in today's society (the "women" part anyway) - but the 'inappropriateness' dates back to the 19th century, not to neolithic times.

jz78817
12-01-2014, 01:06 PM
Regarding the Seconds Ammendment business, I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room: America, as a culture, has a deep-seated distrust of the government. We tend to view it as a necessary evil, and nothing more. This goes all the way back to colonial times, when we had a revolution because the Crown was being an intolerable asshole in the way they were treating the colonies.

Whether this attitude is outdated is another question entirely.

given what the NSA has been doing, and the DOJ is trying to do, (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/beefed-up-iphone-crypto-will-lead-to-a-child-dying-doj-warned-apple-execs/) I don't think it's outdated.

AK84
12-01-2014, 01:41 PM
The adage was never based on direct genetic survival, but rather on notions of galantry and honour as a social norm. Having people believe in gallantry and honour as a social norm has obvious benefits for that society - for example, it forms the basis of the type of social subornination that makes an army formidable.

The "women and children first" thing is directly tied to that - that exact phrase was derived from the Birkenhead disaster:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Birkenhead_(1845)

It was eulogized at the time as an example of military discipline - the understanding being, of course, that a society that creates soldiers with the discipline to "stand an' be still to the Birkenhead Drill", as Kipling put it, would be better at defeating other societies in battle, than ones that could not.

This was later generalized to being the society that could produce men that have such discipline would be better off, and the "Birkenhead Drill" of 'women and children first' came to be applied generally.

Which, one could point out, is perfectly sexist in today's society (the "women" part anyway) - but the 'inappropriateness' dates back to the 19th century, not to neolithic times.

That is true. However, women and children first is hardly inapplicable today. As has been shown by studies, where such an order is given, women and children have high survival rates (http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/04/sea-disasters), while they tend to perish much more easily when its not, like the M/S Estonia, where the majority of survivors were young men. In a disaster, everyone panics, and in the push to get off men are much more likely to be able to. Therefore, women and children first has good reasons to be followed, to maintain order and to get everyone a chance to survive.

Malthus
12-01-2014, 01:52 PM
That is true. However, women and children first is hardly inapplicable today. As has been shown by studies, where such an order is given, women and children have high survival rates (http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2012/04/sea-disasters), while they tend to perish much more easily when its not, like the M/S Estonia, where the majority of survivors were young men. In a disaster, everyone panics, and in the push to get off men are much more likely to be able to. Therefore, women and children first has good reasons to be followed, to maintain order and to get everyone a chance to survive.

That's a fair point - men on average being larger and stronger than women. I suppose any social rule which had the effect of avoiding a panicked rout would be beneficial. One could probably shorten it to "children first" and have the same impact.

One thing is sure though - having the crew save itself before the passengers still arouses universal condemnation - there have been a couple of famous examples of that lately (in particular, that disaster in Korea).

DrCube
12-01-2014, 02:03 PM
Saluting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salute#Origin), tipping one's hat (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hat_tip#Traditional), shaking hands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handshake#History) and clinking glasses together during a toast (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toast_%28honor%29#History) are all customs that originated with medieval noblemen signalling to each other that "I'm not planning to kill you".

Soylent Juicy
12-01-2014, 03:22 PM
One thing is sure though - having the crew save itself before the passengers still arouses universal condemnation - there have been a couple of famous examples of that lately (in particular, that disaster in Korea).

And the Costa Concordia. I read somewhere that the captain hightailed it off the ship and was speaking to someone (company personnel maybe?) and the person told him in no uncertain terms to get his ass back onto that sinking ship.

Diceman
12-01-2014, 03:32 PM
One thing is sure though - having the crew save itself before the passengers still arouses universal condemnation - there have been a couple of famous examples of that lately (in particular, that disaster in Korea).
See also, the Costa Concordia grounding. The captain was the first guy off the boat, and is universally condemned as a coward because of it.

Still, I've always wondered about the whole "women & children first" idea. Didn't this originate in the days before welfare, or any other social safety nets? Back then, the loss of the primary wage earner (ie, the father) pretty much guaranteed that the familiy would be left destitute. The sinking of the Titanic devistated entire communities in England for exactly this reason.

Princhester
12-01-2014, 05:23 PM
The Qur'an (Surah 4, An-Nisa) states that polygamy is justified because it provides a form of welfare for orphan girls. Nowadays, girls have a lot more opportunities for economic stability other than joining a harem.

So where is this followed? This thread is about etiquette that has continued despite no longer being required, not stuff written in old books that is now ignored.

puzzlegal
12-01-2014, 05:44 PM
...I am sure there are some American examples. I think the theory behind not eating with your elbows on the table is that a working person's elbows are likely to be petty dirty, and would quickly soil the table linens. Few of us have particularly dirty elbows these days.I think it's just because you take up more space at the table if you put your elbows on it. And in traditional settings, the table is crowded and it would be very rude to lay claim to that space when you aren't actively using it (say, by cutting your meat.) Modern chairs are much much wider than traditional chairs, so perhaps that one has become less relevant. But I still eat at some tables that are cosy, and where planting your elbows would be obviously rude.

DrDeth
12-01-2014, 06:53 PM
"Clean your plate as people in xxxxx are starving."

(of course, people in XXX are still starving, but it makes no sense for Americans to be"Clean plate rangers" when "too much food" is a bigger problem in America)

Flywheel
12-01-2014, 08:18 PM
"Clean your plate as people in xxxxx are starving."

"Oh, you cook for them too?"

Colibri
12-01-2014, 08:24 PM
"Oh, you cook for them too?"

"Got a stamp?"

Nava
12-01-2014, 10:57 PM
Telephone etiquette for personal calls. It's one of those weird-ass things. It took me forever to stop asking "may I please speak to ___" when I called somebody on their cell - what, I don't know, maybe somebody else picked it up! Just saying "hey" seems so rude! And THEN I had to get rid of "This is ___" because people like my nephew just sigh and say "I KNOW, Aunt Zsofia." So for friends and family I gave it up.

That will vary by location and by family. In Spain it is common to pick up your coworker's phones and take the message (for a lot of European countries, letting it go to the beepy recording only became possible about 15 years ago and most people have no idea how to deal with it); with family, even more so. And apparently my voice and my mother's are identical: her best friend is one of the few people who can tell us apart on the phone but it's because I say "hello, good morning" and Mom says "yeah?"

UDS
12-02-2014, 12:11 AM
The convention in our own society that brides wear white developed from the much older convention that candidates for baptism, first eucharist and confirmation wore white. The colour was intended to suggest new life, purity and virtue and of course most of the people wearing in that context were infants or children.

The colour was adopted for brides in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was seen as evoking the same concepts - youth, purity, freshness.

Nowadays, of course, we regard marriage at a young age as foolhardy, and we are more inclined to identify qualities such as maturity and a degree of economic stability as desirable attainments before marriage. But by convention brides continue to dress like little girls making their first communion.

aruvqan
12-02-2014, 08:19 AM
"Clean your plate as people in xxxxx are starving."

(of course, people in XXX are still starving, but it makes no sense for Americans to be"Clean plate rangers" when "too much food" is a bigger problem in America)
You have no idea how freaking thrilled I am that my parents skipped that whole line of crap. And the forcing to eat stuff we disliked.

In general, we had meals that were regular food, whatever our parents were having. Generally it was the normal stuff we had been eating all along. If there was something different, we were given one or two bites of the food and had to try it. If we liked it we could have more, but after than if it was served we could politely decline it and double up on something else. My brother and I grew up liking stuff like german style wilted spinach salads [Mom hated canned spinach and refused to use the green slime, as she called it, so we only had spinach in season from our garden] brussels sprouts which she found locally in season, lima beans [we grew them - she made this baby lima bean soup that was amazing] artichokes my dad brought back from California when he had to go to a base out there for some school or another back in 1968. I think we must have been the only kids in our tiny town in western NY to have had fresh whole globe artichokes at the time.

The only food dissent we had in our house was a ham loaf [take a picnic ham, grind like ground beef, mix with bread crumbs, egg and whatnot, and bake like a meatloaf. Yes it was as disgusting as it sounds.] Neither my brother nor I would eat more than a single bite of it. There was one other time we had problems but not actual dissent, my mother was in hospital with pneumonia, Marie had the evening off and my father decided to make stewed tomatoes - he used either salt or sugar, and mom normally used the other so we decided it was disgusting. Normally we liked stewed tomatoes ... oops :smack:

Malthus
12-02-2014, 09:48 AM
See also, the Costa Concordia grounding. The captain was the first guy off the boat, and is universally condemned as a coward because of it.

Still, I've always wondered about the whole "women & children first" idea. Didn't this originate in the days before welfare, or any other social safety nets? Back then, the loss of the primary wage earner (ie, the father) pretty much guaranteed that the familiy would be left destitute. The sinking of the Titanic devistated entire communities in England for exactly this reason.

When the idea first arose on the Birkenhead, it was applied to a group of very young soldiers - much was made of the fact that they were new recruits. So it was most unlikely that they were heads of families.

From a contemporary account:

The order and regularity that prevailed on board, from the moment the ship struck till she totally disappeared, far exceeded anything that I had thought could be effected by the best discipline; and it is the more to be wondered at seeing that most of the soldiers were but a short time in the service.

The Kipling poem:

But to stand an' be still to the Birken'ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An' they done it, the Jollies -- 'Er Majesty's Jollies -- soldier an' sailor too!
Their work was done when it 'adn't begun; they was younger nor me an' you;

Later, the same standards were of course applied to men more generally.

Diceman
12-02-2014, 12:25 PM
The convention in our own society that brides wear white developed from the much older convention that candidates for baptism, first eucharist and confirmation wore white. The colour was intended to suggest new life, purity and virtue and of course most of the people wearing in that context were infants or children.

The colour was adopted for brides in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was seen as evoking the same concepts - youth, purity, freshness.

Nowadays, of course, we regard marriage at a young age as foolhardy, and we are more inclined to identify qualities such as maturity and a degree of economic stability as desirable attainments before marriage. But by convention brides continue to dress like little girls making their first communion.
Even well into the 20th Century, you can find plently of pictures of newlyweds where the bride isn't wearing a bridal gown. The bride & groom would simply show up at church in their "Sunday best."

mmmiiikkkeee
12-02-2014, 12:29 PM
It's common in the USA for parents to teach their children to eat everything on their plates, even on pain of violent punishment, or being forced to sit before the plate for hours. (These extremes are far less common in the current generation.) This is a result of the Great Depression, when food was scarce even in formerly well-off families, and adults were faced with regretting having wasted food when they were younger.

This has now been passed down into the third and fourth generation, with most folks now having no idea where it comes from. It can be a real problem for those who never confront and disabuse themselves of the requirement, especially given the insanely large portions provided by so many restaurants. I've seen co-workers in physical pain having unconsciously forced themselves to finish an over-large meal.

That may be one of several origins, but due to the numerous other reasons parents tell thier kids to finish everything on their plates we can't say the practice in inapplicable or obsolete today. I came up with the idea of trying to get my kids to finish everything (at least at supper) on my own for several reasons. We don't give them excessive amounts of food; they're capable of eating it all (we've seen them). In fact, we usually give them slightly less than they tyically eat so that when they finish they can have more of whatever they want. But...

They easily get distracted and often don't feel like eating at the particular time supper is, but they're too little to prep a meal for themselves and if they don't eat a reasonable amount (see above) at suppertime they'll be grouchy and hungry a couple hours later when it's bed time. Answer: "eat all your food now". Given the choice they'd randomly fill up on sugar and snacks at their own whim and have a pretty shitty and inconsistent diet. However, it's not practical follow each one around and record every cookie, penut, and cheese string they eat through the day so as to formulate what's missing and design suppertime around them. I want them to get at least a bit of healthy food in their systems every day and not to pick through their plate and just eat the bacon bits from their salad. Eating everthing on thier plate ensures they get a minimal amount of what they should get. I care less if they finish all their treats or random snack items earlier in the day.

Also, being kids they tend to be a bit gross and stick their dirty fingers in their food or leave excessive amounts of drool on thier utensils which gets smeared back into the food on their plates. Sure, it's the "Ick factor", but I'm not putting what they don't eat back into the main pot; so if they don't eat it all it's in the garbage; I don't like throwing away otherwise good food/money. Sometimes kids will try to play power games or challenge a parents authority around eating; they'll eat a certain dish 10 times (liking it) and then one day claim they hate it. Or they'll feel like doing thier own thing and fake being sick at the table. Finishing their food anyway is a way to keep them in line (and at the same time adequately fed). IME a grouchy kid who's allowed to skip eating a normal amount of supper only gets grouchier later in the evening and even more prone to being disobediant (having gotten out of finishing through arguing).

The above aren't meant as points to argue on parenting, but just as several examples to show that finishing everything on your plate is not always rooted in the great depression and perhaps shouldn't be on this list. In fact, most of my reasons revolve around times of plenty and having access to excess resources. The reasons for this practice are simply too variable.

Diceman
12-02-2014, 12:36 PM
Later, the same standards were of course applied to men more generally.
This is the part I don't get. Again, those were times when society as a whole would respond to your noble sacrifice by shrugging indifferently as your widow whored herself out in some back alley so your kids wouldn't go hungry that night. And any man called upon to make such a sacrifice would certainly know this. It seems to me that the typical response from the typical man would be something equating to "fuck you."

Or maybe that was the typical response, and the idea that this attitude was ever widely followed is largely mythical.

alphaboi867
12-02-2014, 07:26 PM
Even well into the 20th Century, you can find plently of pictures of newlyweds where the bride isn't wearing a bridal gown. The bride & groom would simply show up at church in their "Sunday best."

Indeed, a white wedding dress also had the effect of announcing the bride's family was rich enough to buy her a widely impractical dress that was impossible to clean properly & would be ruined by the smallest amount of dirt. Most brides just bought a dress that would become their new Sunday best, or barring that just wore the nicest dress they already had. Granted starting with the availability of artificial dyes in the late 19th century it became possible for a lot of women to buy a white dress & dye it after their wedding.

Also it's "something blue" that signifies virginity, blue being long associated with the Virgin Mary in artwork.

DrDeth
12-02-2014, 08:58 PM
Indeed, a white wedding dress also had the effect of announcing the bride's family was rich enough to buy her a widely impractical dress that was impossible to clean properly & would be ruined by the smallest amount of dirt. Most brides just bought a dress that would become their new Sunday best, or barring that just wore the nicest dress they already had. Granted starting with the availability of artificial dyes in the late 19th century it became possible for a lot of women to buy a white dress & dye it after their wedding.

Also it's "something blue" that signifies virginity, blue being long associated with the Virgin Mary in artwork.
Possibly not. The "blue" was often a garter, and the custom originated in England. The "something borrowed" was best a undergarment from a wife with many kids.

And of course, the "a silver sixpence in her shoe" is a nice little piece of cash in those days, like keeping a $20 in your bra. I buy these when I see them and give them as little gifts to brides to be.

Queen Victoria likely started the White Wedding custom in 1840.

puzzlegal
12-03-2014, 08:00 AM
...
Queen Victoria likely started the White Wedding custom in 1840.I have read that this was the case in a couple of places.

md2000
12-03-2014, 11:13 AM
Q: Why does the bride wear white?
A: The dishwasher should match the other appliances...

To be fair, what I read of the Korean disaster was that the captain and crew left because there was nothing they could do. The cabins entrances (?) were inaccessibly underwater and the PA system had failed, so they could not change the orders to "remain in your cabin". But true, the optics don't look good.

The "women and children first" mentality is the extension of the notion of Chivalry; the European notion that the powerful prove their place by being generous and gracious, following the Christian precepts of charity or love - "I could fight my way to the front of the line / kill you /take your food , we both know this, so I will let the weaker ones go ahead of me /live /eat to prove my strength."

As a counterpoint to this, watch a movie like the Canadian "Black Robe" (if you can find it). It loosely follows the example of the Jesuit martyrs among the Hurons and Algonquin in the 1600's. The native chief explains the difference - "if I let my enemy live when I could kill him, I show weakness. If my enemy thinks I am weak, he will come back and try even harder to kill me." Different cultures, different perspectives on how to treat others. We might see that as cruel and barbaric, but to that culture their actions are logical and necessary.

John Mace
12-03-2014, 11:17 AM
Queen Victoria likely started the White Wedding custom in 1840.

Nope. Billy Idol, 1982. :D

Apollon
12-04-2014, 08:38 AM
Saluting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salute#Origin),
Please don't perpetuate that urban legend! Not only do we know where the military salute really originated, but even if we didn't, there still would be no plausible reason why to believe that it originated with medieval knights. Consider: the knights disappeared in the late 1400s; saluting wasn't adopted until the 1700s. What kind of tradition gets into a 200-300 year hiatus and then suddenly becomes universal again?

The very article you linked explains real origin of saluting in the very next paragraph:
It was a long-established military custom for subordinates to remove their headgear in the presence of superiors. As late as the American Revolution, a British Army soldier saluted by removing his hat. With the advent of increasingly cumbersome headgear in the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the act of removing one's hat was gradually converted into the simpler gesture of grasping or touching the visor and issuing a courteous salutation.

As early as 1745, a British order book stated that: "The men are ordered not to pull off their hats when they pass an officer, or to speak to them, but only to clap up their hands to their hats and bow as they pass."

Malthus
12-04-2014, 08:48 AM
Please don't perpetuate that urban legend! Not only do we know where the military salute really originated, but even if we didn't, there still would be no plausible reason why to believe that it originated with medieval knights. Consider: the knights disappeared in the late 1400s; saluting wasn't adopted until the 1700s. What kind of tradition gets into a 200-300 year hiatus and then suddenly becomes universal again?

The very article you linked explains real origin of saluting in the very next paragraph:

Heh, it is still a good example - only, moved down to the early modern era. ;)

Saluting survived even after military headgear ceased to be cumbersome and elaborate.

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