If you want to have a good laugh, flip through an old etiquette book from centuries ago. There are lines in American Etiquette and Rules of Politeness (from 1883) that don’t just sound outdated, they seem downright ridiculous. Such exclamations as “The Dickens,” or “Mercy,” or “Good Gracious,” should never be used,” the author writes. A gentleman should also be “very careful in selecting her horse,” and women “kissing each other in public is decidedly vulgar, and is avoided entirely by ladies of delicacy and true refinement.” It’s all so adorable and antiquated. (For more laughs on how life was centuries ago, be sure to read The 28 Most Enduring Myths in American History.)
But you might also stumble across a few rules that you recognize from modern times—things we do without questioning it, like saying “hello” when you pick up the phone, or clicking glasses during a toast, or covering your mouth when you yawn. Why do we do these things anyway? You may be surprised to learn how much of the etiquette we take for granted has been around for centuries. Here are 23 old-fashioned etiquette rules that still apply today, and where they came from. So read on, and be armed with these fun facts for your next get together. Who knows? They may help you Dazzle Your Next Dinner Party.
1. A Woman Always Walks On a Man’s Right Side
When you walk down a sidewalk with your girlfriend or wife, do you automatically position herself on her left? It may seem arbitrary, but it goes back to medieval times. A man always carried a sword on his left side—easier to grasp it with his right hand—so keeping his lady to his right meant he was less likely to stab her accidentally. Even when swords fell out of fashion, men liked to position themselves closer to the street, to protect their feminine partners from imminent dangers, like runaway carriages and horse poop. That used to be called “being a gentleman.” For more about being a gentleman, read up on the 20 Things She Always Wants You To Say.