July 21, 2008

Manners for Romantic Liaisons or Stadium Beer

Manners haven’t always been old-fashioned. They were cutting-edge in the heyday of the Enlightenment. (Maybe I shouldn’t use “heyday” for the Enlightenment. How about, “at the sensible and sagacious midpoint of the Enlightenment”?)

A great lesson in manners is a 1771 novel-in-letters called Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim by Sophie von La Roche – whose protagonist is also named Sophie. Lord Derby feigns benevolence to the poor in order to impress the virtuous Sophie, a self-proclaimed anglophile. They have a sham marriage, Derby gets tired of her, he marries another woman, he doesn’t tell Sophie but does try to kill her in the Highlands, she is saved by crofters, and the bad-mannered seducer croaks. Later, Sophie bumps into the guy she’s liked all along, a real mister good-manners named Seymour. They marry and live happily ever after. Their partnership is an enlightened one, based on politeness and mutual respect, which offers Sophie the scope to act upon her convictions: “Gesinnungen müssen Handlungen werden,” translates as, sentiments must be turned into deeds, which is an advocacy for virtue based on education – or, learn some manners, people!

Manners were progressive in the eighteenth century, but today they seem truly misplaced. Case in point, this advice from Austria’s etiquette guru Thomas Schäfer-Elmayer for the Euro 2008 tournament held last month:

Anyone with a ticket to see a game is likely to spend several hours next to a complete stranger and there too appropriate behaviour is required.

"It's not the done thing to introduce yourself in the stadium. But at first, one should address other adults formally." [Referring to the “Siezen” format in spoken German.]

And if a fellow fan, overcome by joy, was to spill his favourite drink on you: "I would urge him to be more careful and then keep my distance."

Without being aggressive, one should be able to prevent further unwanted interaction.

"I would give him a look to dampen his enthusiasm and put an end to all conversation," says Schaefer-Elmayer.

(AFP; June 4, 2008)

And with that, we've learned that Herr Schäfer-Elmayer has never been to a soccer game.


Mama V said...


Thanks for that.

peli said...


Mark said...

Great concept and content. I look forward to reading more and maybe even learning a thing or two along the way.