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Entries in Manners (1)


Elbow Night

Dinner manners were stressed to me by my parents, and I’ve stressed to my children.

It’s a bit of a struggle, to be honest.  In fact, some of the manners don’t make any sense.  Why shift the fork to the other hand after cutting meat?  In parts of the world, the fork isn’t shifted, and frankly it makes more sense to me.

I wanted to help my kids learn so they didn’t stumble as they enter the professional world.  In my fraternity, we were having a special dinner and needed to do a simple place setting.  I had to come up with a simple way for the “guys” to know how to set the place settings. 

  • Left (four letters) = fork (four letters)
  • Right (five letters) = knife and spoon (five letters) and K comes before S.

So at every meal with my children I coached.  Sometimes vocally, sometimes with a glance, and occasionally by simply nudging an elbow off the table.

This was not appreciated.  In fact, it was often resisted.  How do you explain the importance of table manners to a 10 year old?  What is etiquette? For crying out loud, I’m not Miss Manners.

And frankly, there are some foods best consumed with elbows on the table.  Corn on the cob, ribs, fried chicken, and pizza are some examples.   This has been debated often, and it’s considered impolite to have elbows on the table.

To compromise, we had Elbow Night.  On Elbow Night (Wednesdays), it was perfectly acceptable to have Elbows on the table.  In some parts of the world, Wednesday may be Prince Spaghetti Day, at my house Elbows ruled.


By giving this slight compromise, the arguing ceased and the focus was back to fun.

As my children have grown and entered the professional world, they acknowledge they are happy to have manners.  And my daughter declared at a recent dinner, “I’ll always have Wednesdays be Elbow Night.”

What tricks have you used to help teach manners and etiquette?