15 August 2010

Unfortunate Informality


We wrote earlier in "The Repose of Nobility" about the decline of many virtues and traits held dear by our forefathers. Now it's time for specifics. One of society's greatest shortcomings to-day is its informality. Informality itself is a somewhat broad, vague category. However, it is the root of two very obvious issues: familiarity and underdressing.

Familiarity is defined as "considerable acquaintance with, established friendship; intimacy" or alternately, "an absence of ceremony and formality; informality." In this case, we refer to the latter. The cultural informality of to-day has created a false sense of intimacy among people. Telemarketers and salesmen now feel at ease addressing one by one's first name and often only give a their own first name in return. This is not only inappropriate, but also belittling and offensive. It has even come to the point that children will no longer call their friends' parents "Mister" and "Mis'ess". It cannot be borne.

The use of Christian names should be reserved to close friends and family. Simply put, allowing acquaintances to use one's forename gives the false impression that they know one well enough to break other etiquette. If one would be unwilling to trust a person with sensitive, personal information then it is inappropriate for one to allow said person to address one by one's forename. The use of formal address commands respect and creates the distinction between friends or family and associates or acquaintances. The deterioration of formal address and etiquette results in the deterioration of respect and manners. There should certainly be a distinction between children and elders as well as between superiors and subordinates.

In the English language, it is proper that should be addressed as "Mister" (Mr.) followed by their surname. Married women should be addressed as "Mis'ess" (Mrs.) followed by their surname. Boys under thirteen should be addressed as "Master" (Mstr.) followed by their surname while girls and unmarried women should be addressed as "Miss" (Ms.) followed by their surname. It is also appropriate, particularly for children addressing adults, to use "Sir" for men and "Madam" or "Ma'am" for women (note that these titles should not be followed by a surname).

The best way to combat this breach in etiquette is to lead by example; stick to it yourself. Address others in this fashion as etiquette dictates and insist (politely of course) that you be addressed likewise. This is not to say, mind you, that we recommend formal address among family and close friends. Do not take it too far, but business associates and acquaintances should remain formal until such a time (in the case of acquaintances) that they are counted as good friends. At the very least, children should be addressing all adults accordingly.

The other issue brought about by informality is overly casual dress. While we note well that everyone enjoys being comfortable, it should be done in the privacy of one's own home. The modern era's over-relaxation of decorum has resulted in a society that, frankly, does not know how to dress properly. Our ancestors learned to dress themselves at a very young age, but to-day it seems many adults live their lives still unable to do it right.

Pajamas should never, under any circumstances be seen in public. The same goes for undergarments (if you have this issue, then you aren't using a belt when you should be). Jeans and sandals are nice but we all have to grow up sometime. Jeans should be worn sparingly and sweats probably shouldn't be worn in public if at all.

This isn't about how to polish shoes or buy a suit that fits properly. The people struggling with underdressing haven't even gotten that far. In short, valuing personal comfort over the appearance of the clothes is pure selfishness. We never said it was easy doing the right thing, but dressing properly hasn't killed anyone yet.

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