WASHINGTON (Aug. 16, 2011)—Did you know there are countries where you can offend someone by shaking their hand, places where you can’t name a child without the approval of the national naming committee, and a region where wearing pajamas out in public is the norm?
If you’ve ever wondered about the historical significance behind President Obama and the first lady’s fist bump or the cultural importance of Chinese dumplings, National Geographic has the perfect book for you. AN UNCOMMON HISTORY OF COMMON COURTESY: How Manners Shaped the World (ISBN 978-1-4262-0813-3; on sale Oct. 18, 2011; $40 hardcover), by Bethanne Patrick, reveals how certain customs came about, which courtesies have become antiquated and why social norms vary around the world. The foreword is written by Judith Martin, better known by her pen name Miss Manners, renowned journalist, author, etiquette authority and recipient of the 2005 National Humanities Medal.
Patrick takes readers across the globe, diving into a variety of common courtesies. For example, in the chapter “Getting & Spending,” you’ll learn about the dollar dance, a Polish-American tradition where guests pin dollars on a bride’s gown as she dances around the room. In the chapter “Say the Magic Words,” Patrick explains why the phrase “pleased to meet you” is inappropriate.
The pages are also filled with important characters in the history of courtesies. You’ll meet Ancient Egyptian Ptah-Hotep, the first man to write an etiquette guide, and discover why our nation’s highways are named after President Eisenhower. Also included are some fun and famous gaffes throughout history, like the details behind George Bush’s ill-received wink at Queen Elizabeth and Hans Christian Andersen’s bad manners as a Dickens family houseguest.
About the Writers
Bethanne Patrick is the author of National Geographic Books’ “An Uncommon History of Common Things.” She has an established online presence in the book world, in which her #FridayReads meme has grown to be an industry “must read.” Patrick, who tweets as @TheBookMaven, has been blogging under that name since 2004, when she became the books editor for AOL. She spent four years with PBS-affiliate WETA, developing an online author-interview show, “The Book Studio.” Patrick is now editor of Shelf Awareness (www.shelf-awareness.com).
Judith Martin worked at the Washington Post covering the capital’s social scene as well as being the drama and film critic. In 1978, she began writing a column called “Miss Manners” — which quickly gained syndication around the country — advocating a return to civility after the late 1960s and 1970s, when traditional mores had been challenged. Her colleague George F. Will calls her “The National Bureau of Standards.” Martin has written a number of books, including “Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding,” which she co-authored with her daughter, Jacobina, and “Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Good Behavior.” Now that both of her children have become parents, Martin does not rule out the possibility of their writing a book about child rearing — in which she may have a say as grandmother, of course.