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Manners Makyth (Hu)Man

The motto referred to above is attributed to William Horman (Headmaster of Winchester College and Eton successively in Tudor times) who referenced it in his Latin textbook Vulgaria.

In it, he took common English expressions and translated them into Latin, many of them becoming the mottos used by various institutions. It is also believed to have been the personal motto of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester in the 14th century; and he applied it to both New College, Oxford, and Winchester College, both of which he founded. 

We have all been chastened at some point in our upbringing for breaking some rule which constituted being a bit impolite.  

  • ‘Take your elbows off the table.’ 
  • ‘Don’t slurp your drink!’ 
  • ‘Hold your knife and fork correctly.’ 

These are all admonishments that are commonplace in our homes, and are considered part of preparing our children for a life in polite society. We regard these as important rules of engagement so that they can function confidently in any social situation, and feel that they have the capital to relate to the context that they find themselves in. 

Why are we speaking about manners when this blog should be considering all things well-being? Well, we are able to contribute to the wellbeing of others by being well-mannered and polite. When we deal with others harshly, or disrespectfully, we have the power to negatively impact on their sense of wellbeing and their view of us as people. Manners set the scope for how others perceive us, and poor manners may set up a reluctance in people to want to deal with us. 

A knowledge of how to behave in various social contexts can also set us up well to succeed in our relationships with other people. Good manners, and an awareness of etiquette, can go a long way to helping us feel relaxed wherever we go, and to be able to relate to people from all walks of life.  

Manners are something that need to be taught and modelled to children. They watch us all the time, even when we think they aren’t, and they make decisions about what is considered acceptable or not based on what they observe us doing. If we are rude and abrasive towards waiters in a restaurant, they pick up on it. When we habitually forget to show gratitude when someone has done something for us, they may think it alright not to say thank you when something is done for them.  

Margaret Webb Pressler writes: ‘Manners are about more than using the right fork or not slurping when you drink. Those rules of etiquette might be expected in certain situations, but not doing those things isn’t going to hurt anyone’s feelings. Good manners are a way to show others that you care about them.’ The reason why good manners are essential is because they smooth the way for happier and healthier social interactions, a bit like traffic lights help to control the flow of traffic. Without them, we might find ourselves having more relational accidents than are necessary. 

Our concept of what constitutes having good manners has shifted quite a lot over the past 100 years. The Victorian expectation of children not speaking until spoken to no longer passes muster in modern society; however, rules about using our mobile phones at the dinner table are now needed, as doing this expresses disinterest or a lack of engagement with those around us.  

The reality is that the better our manners are, the better we make those around us feel about being with us. No matter how they shift as society changes, they always set out to do the same thing, and that is to make others feel cared for and appreciated. And that can only be beneficial to our wellbeing, and that of those we encounter. 

Craig Cuyler
Assistant Deputy Head/Head of PSHEe/Director of Wellbeing

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