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Dinosaurs: the importance of etiquette, grammar and punctuation

It seems as if we have been doing a lot of psychological topics, and I would like to see a shift away from that for a while (morality? ethics? science?).  if you have suggestions, please send them in.  Given the lack of interest in the Parenting topic, I hope this one finds more enthusiasts.


This topic was suggested by (and written up by) Jonathan:


In the 1950's, much attention was given to teaching the standards of conduct expected of children in their in my behavior with other people. These standards were referred to as "manners". The standards included courtesies such as saying ‘please’, ‘thank you’, and ‘excuse me’. Special attention was given to table manners, the rules of etiquette for eating. Table manners included how to set the table, how to serve food, how to clear the table. There was a lengthy list of does and do nots. Do hold your fork the right way. Do wait for the hostess to take the first bite.. Do not speak with your mouth full. Do not eat with your elbows on the table, etc.

At the same time children were learning manners at home, in school, they were learning an elaborate set of rules for using language; rules of grammar, spelling, capitalization, punctuation and penmanship. They were told that English is not precise and the more we can do to express the nuances of written language, the clearer our communications would be. The tools of precision were grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Penmanship, the craft of using a pencil or pen to record information, was also taught as a fundamental skill.

Even now, punctuation, grammar, capitalization all  matter in business, law, and technology.   A misplaced comma can adversely change the meaning of a document.

However, in the modern world of email, texting and Twitter, the conventions of standard English are irrelevant. English is often truncated and reduced to misspelled, unpunctuated, uncapitalized pap. At the same time, legal, medical and technical communication still depend heavily on the nuanced expression of standard English.  But now, using standard English is a specialty skill.

Concurrent with the deconstruction of etiquette and grammar is the elimination of cursive handwriting. Many school systems are eliminating cursive hand writing from curriculum. Will signatures matter in the future? Do they matter now? Are handwritten  notes obsolete?  Will we live in a world where the breakdown of electronic recording devices, e.g. Ipads, laptop computers, text messaging cell phones, will also mean the absence of skill necessary to create a written record of events?

As etiquette, grammar and punctuation are disintegrating, are we losing something that matters? Or are we dinosaurs from a previous century, unable to surrender old habits?


As some of you know, it costs me about $144 each year to run this meetup.  If you have the resources and the inclination, a small contribution ($5-$10) each year would help defray this cost. Think of this as my asking you to give me a quarter at each meeting!

You can find a map of exactly how to get to 95 Summit street by clicking here. Note that much of Summit Street is Resident-Only parking, even on Sunday.  The police may ticket your car even if the street is completely empty, with 100 available parking spaces.  Silly wabbits.

You may find parking on Maple between Summit and South Union, or on Willard between Main and Cliff.  I understand that Champlain College does not enforce their permit-only parking in their parking lots on the weekends.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    Excellent atmosphere, brilliant insights and a stimulating discussion. Highly educational.

    April 9, 2013

  • beth

    Just buried under to do stuff....have a good group !

    April 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bachelor's ABC:

    A bit calm, daring, earnest, friendly gent humbly implores joyful, kind, loving maiden. No obligation! Proper qualification requires spirit, thought, understanding, virtue, wit. X-plain your zest.

    I hope I got the punctuation right.

    April 5, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Heinlein said the the best measure of a culture's vibrancy/health was the status of etiquette. When etiquette fails, so does the cultures. I think of etiquette as social grease. Course, what was grease to my grandfather is craziness to me. What is grease to the 20 year olds out there is probably crazy to me. I don't think they're disintegrating, just changing. Where there is human culture, there will be social grease.

    April 5, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry. Down in Boston for the weekend and Sunday brunch as just become a reality. See you next week.

    April 5, 2013

  • Katherine L M.

    I think this topic for the 7th is a good one, and am sorry I shall be out of town over the weekend. Will attempt to arouse some thoughts about future topics. Thanks.

    Kathy Mihok

    April 3, 2013

13 went

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