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Etiquette (pronounced /ˈɛtɨkɛt/ or /ˈɛtɨkɪt/) is a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. The French word étiquette, literally signifying tag or label first appeared in English around 1750.[1]



Like culture, etiquette is a word that has gradually grown to become plural, especially in a multi-ethnic society with many clashing expectations. Thus, it is now possible to refer to "an etiquette" or "a culture", realizing that these may not be universal. In Britain, the word "etiquette" has been described as the one word that aptly describes life during the reign of queen Victoria.[2]

Rules of etiquette

Rules of etiquette encompass most aspects of social interaction in any society, though the term itself is not commonly used. A rule of etiquette may reflect an underlying ethical code, or it may reflect a person's fashion or status. Rules of etiquette are usually unwritten, but aspects of etiquette have been codified from time to time.


"Etiquette tells one which fork to use. Manners tells one what to do when your neighbour doesn't"

Manners involve a wide range of social interactions within cultural norms as in the "comedy of manners", or a painter's characteristic "manner". Etiquette and manners, like mythology, have buried histories especially when they seem to have little obvious purpose, and their justifications as logical ("respect shown to others" etc.) may be equally revealing to the social historian.

In the United States, the notion of etiquette, being of French origin and arising from practices at the court of Louis XIV, is occasionally disparaged, especially by those unfamiliar with etiquette's social foundations and functions, as old-fashioned or elite, a code concerned only with apparently remote directives such as "which fork to use". Some such individuals consider etiquette to be an unnecessary restriction of freedom of personal expression; others consider such a philosophy to be espoused only by the unschooled, the unmannerly and the rude. For instance, wearing pajamas to a wedding in a cathedral may indeed be an expression of the guest's freedom, but also may cause the bride and groom to suspect that the guest in pajamas is expressing amusement, disparagement, or disrespect towards them and their wedding. Etiquette may be enforced in pragmatic ways: "No shoes, no shirt, no service" is a notice commonly displayed outside stores and cafés in the warmer parts of North America. Others feel that a single, basic code shared by all makes life simpler and more pleasant by removing many chances for misunderstandings and by creating opportunities for courtesy and mutual respect.

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