If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.
- Dorothy Parker
When Bret Easton Ellis wrote American Psycho he was making a point about the society he occupied: the New York ‘yuppie’ society of the late 1980s. It’s obvious from reading the novel that he wasn’t fond of the men from that society. His novel suggests these men were slick-haired but teak-headed, but he uses extraordinarily graphic violence to misdirect the reader away from this point.
Oscar Wilde was supposed to have said that a gentleman is one who never insults another person unintentionally. It certainly sounds like Wilde. He spent a lot of time around ‘gentlemen’ from London society and the little quote suggests he didn’t like them that much, either. The point Easton-Ellis takes a novel to make was made by Wilde in one sentence. Wilde was a clever bastard.
Examine the idea that a gentleman is one who never insults somebody unintentionally for a moment and it becomes clear that the qualifications for gentleman status in Wilde’s opinion were not difficult to attain. To not be so coarse as to give offence by accident is all it takes. In other words, to be a gentleman requires nothing more than basic good manners. Goodness me, in that case, even a working-class man could be a gentleman: a notion the ‘gentlemen’ of Wilde’s time might raise an eyebrow to, and it’s there one finds the point of the utterance.
Those who believe that one should drink white wine with white meat and red wine with red meat – because to do so shows a certain refinement or a sense of correctness – have no refinement and don’t understand the world they are not part of.
Who decided we should communicate by knife and fork semaphore instead of simply speaking? Wouldn’t it be lovely to just say ‘I’ve had enough’ rather than having to send signals via cutlery – sorry, silverware?
I’ll put it another way.
Do you think the Bullingdon Club leave their knives and forks straight or crossed on their plates when they finish eating? I wonder what they think of the horror-show that is ‘elbows on the table’?
The ‘table manners’ of the working class are revealing. The more of them there are, the more self-loathing and self-hatred is revealed.
Since when did putting your elbows on the table mean you were a bad-mannered person? Who decided for the rest of us? What connection is there between your elbows touching the table and bad manners?
The answer is there isn’t any connection at all, and having your elbows touch the table only means something to those who want to feel better about themselves by thinking they are following some sort of ‘standard’ which might be followed in finer houses than theirs.
The thinking goes like this: ‘If they do it in ‘posh’ houses, and we do it here, we are a little bit ‘posh’ too. And if we’re a little bit ‘posh’ then we’re not the bone-sucking scum we secretly know we are.
Oscar said it better than me.
Beware of people who genuinely believe this crap: