Our Deportment eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 348 pages of information about Our Deportment.

“To turn to our every-day forms of salutation.  We take off our hats on visiting an acquaintance.  We bow on being introduced to strangers.  We rise when visitors enter our drawing-room.  We wave our hand to our friend as he passes the window or drives away from our door.  The Oriental, in like manner, leaves his shoes on the threshold when he pays a visit.  The natives of the Tonga Islands kiss the soles of a chieftain’s feet.  The Siberian peasant grovels in the dust before a Russian noble.  Each of these acts has a primary, an historical significance.  The very word ‘salutation,’ in the first place, derived as it is from salutatio, the daily homage paid by a Roman client to his patron, suggests in itself a history of manners.

“To bare the head was originally an act of submission to gods and rulers.  A bow is a modified prostration.  A lady’s courtesy is a modified genuflection.  Rising and standing are acts of homage; and when we wave our hand to a friend on the opposite side of the street, we are unconsciously imitating the Romans, who, as Selden tells us, used to stand ’somewhat off before the images of their gods, solemnly moving the right hand to the lips and casting it, as if they had cast kisses.’  Again, men remove the glove when they shake hands with a lady—­a custom evidently of feudal origin.  The knight removed his iron gauntlet, the pressure of which would have been all too harsh for the palm of a fair chatelaine; and the custom, which began in necessity, has traveled down to us as a point of etiquette.”


Each nation has its own method of salutation.  In Southern Africa it is the custom to rub toes.  In Lapland your friend rubs his nose against yours.  The Turk folds his arms upon his breast and bends his head very low.  The Moors of Morocco have a somewhat startling mode of salutation.  They ride at a gallop toward a stranger, as though they would unhorse him, and when close at hand suddenly check their horse and fire a pistol over the person’s head.  The Egyptian solicitously asks you, “How do you perspire?” and lets his hand fall to the knee.  The Chinese bows low and inquires, “Have you eaten?” The Spaniard says, “God be with you, sir,” or, “How do you stand?” And the Neapolitan piously remarks, “Grow in holiness.”  The German asks, “How goes it with you?” The Frenchman bows profoundly and inquires, “How do you carry yourself.”

Foreigners are given to embracing.  In France and Germany the parent kisses his grown-up son on the forehead, men throw their arms around the necks of their friends, and brothers embrace like lovers.  It is a curious sight to Americans, with their natural prejudices against publicity in kissing.

In England and America there are three modes of salutation—­the bow, the handshaking and the kiss.


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Our Deportment from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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