Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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Etiquette has only marginally attracted the attention of politeness scholars. This article aims to fill a knowledge gap as it explores the concept in a more systematic way, using nineteenth-century prescriptive metasources from four countries (Britain, France, Italy and the United States). Etiquette is found to form a complicated, all-encompassing body of tendentially amoral, mandatory norms, adapting the minutiae of court protocol to private settings. Since the conventions of etiquette are sequentially structured as scripts with a social gatekeeping function, they can be seen as rituals – that is, schematic, performative interaction that is emotionally invested. Furthermore, given the combination of mandatory behaviour and a concern for rank (precedence), etiquette is seen as a manifestation of Discernment, although etiquette privileges non-verbal aspects of interaction, with less attention for language advice. I consider “etiquette” to be a historically and geographically situated first-order term for the analytical concept of Discernment: emerging in Europe and in North America in the late eighteenth century, it is still in use today.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): class; conduct; discernment; etiquette; morality; nineteenth century; politeness; ritual
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