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“Many who scoff at a book of etiquette would be shocked to hear the least expression of levity touching the Ten Commandments...” Thus opens the introduction to one of the most popular American non-fiction books – one that was avidly studied by both men and women, children and adults, leaders of society and those who yearned to be part of the charmed circle! Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home by Emily Post was first published in 1922 and became an instant bestseller. It has gone through several revisions, been updated frequently and continues to be an encyclopedia for those who are confused and in despair about which fork to use, and what to wear for a black tie dinner. Following the success of her book, Emily Post attained cult status and became a byword for doing the right thing. She was syndicated in at least 200 journals and magazines and spoke extensively on radio programs meant to ease the pain of the socially inept. Today, her descendants head a multimillion dollar conglomerate which includes the Emily Post Institute. Almost all her grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren have something to do with giving advice on social matters. The word etiquette has interesting origins. A Scottish gardener employed by Louis XIV to work in the gardens at Versailles was infuriated by people who trespassed on the perfectly manicured lawns. He put up signs or “tickets” known as “etiquettes” in French, warning people which paths to follow. However, when his signs were ignored, he complained to the King, who issued a stern warning, “Keep within the etiquettes!” The chapters in Etiquette are divided according to different titles. Starting with “Introductions” it advises the aspiring man or woman about town on what is the correct form to be followed while introducing people to each other. Other chapters include Consideration for Servants, Details of Place at a Formal Dinner, The Child at Table etc. Some of the rules may seem quaint, dated and even amusing today. The rules have changed considerably since Emily Post first published her definitive book on the subject. Globalization has resulted in cross-cultural social dynamics. Yet, the primary rules of etiquette, namely respect, avoiding giving of offense and consideration for the feelings of others still remains paramount in our dealings and Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home remains a milestone in the annals of self-help books.
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