For the record, I don’t think oddly of anyone who DOES that, I just wonder WHY they do that, or if they KNOW why. I can’t come up with any real reason for it, myself, and I’m usually pretty good at guessing this kind of thing.
Though the idea of ‘To better see the cleavage, my dear!’ did kind of crack me up.
It seems to me a codification of what intuitively feels respectful…if you were meeting your daughter’s boyfriend for the first time, wouldn’t you feel differently if he remained slouched on the couch than if he stood and shook your hand?
I’ve got no cites, but I would bet it’s related to royalty and courts.
Royals sit on the throne, courtiers stand and mill around because sitting would be rude.
Why would sitting be rude? I would make a WAG that sitting indicates that you’re less ready to immediately carry out the royal’s orders. That’s why we have phrases like “standing attendance” rather than “sitting attendance” on someone.
Women were accorded a position of respect in their own households (probably in large part because they had very little official “in charge” standing anywhere else) and so those same attitudes were expressed to them, and then the rules got transferred to other social or public places where women would be present - the original rules to help keep “mixed company” a polite and genteel occasion that avoided any appearance of vulgarity.
If you’re a group of men, chatting and sitting around, all being roughly equal and relaxed, and a woman comes in, you all jump to your feet to show that you’re all ready and willing to be ordered around by her. She isn’t an equal, because that would make the menfolk all upset, but she can’t be treated as someone subservient, because that’s insulting to her (and by extension your male host) - so, the only remaining option to keep her segregated is to treat her as someone *better *than the group of men. Thus, standing.
The most common example of “person A enters the room, everyone else stands up” today is that when a judge enters a courtroom, everyone else stands up. This is because it’s very important that the authority of the judge not be questioned. If a case makes it in front of a judge, it’s quite possible that emotions could run high and that people present in the courtroom could be unruly. Thus it is crucial that the judge be seen to have an aura of untouchability. A lot fo emphasis is paid to decorum as a way to prevent and counteract genuinely noxious acts. It instills the idea that in this situation, you’re really supposed to control your behavior.
I think Medieval and Renaissance rules of chivalry were put there because without them, most/a significant proportion of men were likely to mistreat women sexually and violently. Thus, having an aura of untouchability was useful, to help keep in line otherwise barbarous men and prevent them from harming women.
It’s a sort of broken window theory for protecting women.
I’m not saying I agree that women should be protected that way.
I was thinking along these same lines. To me, it seems that if you are noticing a woman approaching, you may be leering, and to take action and rise from your seat, well, it seems like you are saying “shwing!” (as in unsheathing your blade ala Wayne’s World). It seems like you would be more disrespectful by standing when a woman approaches these days. Just treat everyone equally, and with an equal amount of respect.
I do it because it’s respectful and I was raised that way. I’m an old, anachronistic redneck who always stands, pulls out the chair, holds the door, removes his hat, and walks on the least desirable part of the sidewalk when with a lady (at least I try to).
There are situations where this doesn’t make sense or becomes awkward, but I follow the old courtesies when they’re appropriate.
? I’ve always encountered the phrase as “dancing attendance”, but there are similar idioms that bear out what you mean, such as “standing ready” and “standing at attention”.
Leopold Wagner’s 1984 Manners, Customs and Observances: their origin and significance claims that “a medieval knight always stood bareheaded in the presence of a lady”, which also explains the doffing-the-hat custom. I have no idea how reliable Wagner is in general, though.
But yeah, the basic traditional rule is that a gentleman does not sit in the presence of a lady who is not also seated, and it seems to come from the widespread and ancient tradition that standing in somebody’s presence (i.e., looking attentive and deferential rather than relaxing at one’s leisure) is a sign of respect.