The Penguin Book of Etiquette: The complete Australian guide to modern manners
Viking, $49.95 hb, 502 pp
Smugness is an occupational hazard for the writer on etiquette. The exquisite Miss Manners, in Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour, describes the ‘wicked joy’ of her trade: ‘There is that pleasant bubble in the throat, the suppressed giggle at another’s ignorance; the flush of generosity accompanying the resolve to set the poor soul straight; that fever of human kindness when one proclaims, for the benefit of others, one’s superior knowledge.’ Suppressed giggles resound through-out the genre. Surely there’s one coming from the late John Morgan in Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners when he suggests that ‘when inviting royalty it is important first to decide, as with any guest, if you are on close enough terms to proffer an invitation’; or that ‘it is bad manners to expel any liquid from any orifice in public, and breastfeeding is no different’.