Can Etiquette Be Humorous?

Etiquette is often thought (incorrectly) to be classism disguised as manners, so it can actually be quite funny when someone uses hyperbolic classism as etiquette.

At least I hope that is what William Hanson is doing.

Once billed as the UK’s youngest etiquette expert, William Hanson is a regular columnist at the Daily Mail (I knoooow, and what’s even worse, it’s in the woman’s interest section called “femail”- like female but spelled like “mail” for the Daily Mail. I cannot.), the author of A Bluffer’s Guide to Etiquette, a popular etiquette commentator for various TV programs, and a tutor for the etiquette consultancy company, The English Manner (presumably another pun on English Manor, as in fancy house where polite people live?). While his book and personal appearances are serious (though funny and engaging), his Daily Mail columns are HILARIOUS when read as a satire of the British class system and how it relates to etiquette (though horrifying if taken seriously, as many of the commentors seem to.)

For example:

  • How Common Is Your Breakfast?:
    • “The middle classes today are obsessed with health foods to start their days. Protein this, good fats that. All rather boring and faddy for the uppers to worry about.
    • They’ve survived this far without chia seeds, thank you, and will somehow manage to carry on the lineage in their absence.”
    • “Do I even have to spell it out what a McMuffin says about your life choices and standards? I severely hope not. Being seen walking down a street with a takeaway cup of coffee is also a fast-track ticket for entry into society hell.”
  • What Does YOUR Home Say About Your Social Class?:
    • “I have written before that there are few worse accusations one can level against someone than that they own, or aspire to own, a hot tub.”
    • “The size of a house’s main television is pretty much the acid test in social class. The bigger the television the more downmarket the establishment.”
    • “Mirrored furniture is not only redolent of the lower echelons of the premier league but stunningly impractical…Oak or mahogany furniture, slightly chipped or worn in places, is far smarter and carries more cachet.”
  • The 12 Silent Ways Everyone Is Judging Your Social Class:
    • “It’s not just how we shake hands but what we say to accompany it. The upper classes will all say ‘how do you do’, which is rhetorical. ‘Pleased/nice to meet you’ is the definition of de trop.”
    • “This is now pandemic at black tie events: men turning up (often the ones with ready-made bow ties) and the moment they reach their seat, whipping off the jacket and sticking it on the back. So vulgar!”
  • How Posh Is YOUR Bedroom?:
    • “Bed linens are cotton, linen or a blend of both. Silk and satin sheets are the reserve of haggard, ageing ungentlemanly playboys. Linens are often white, or off white. Floral bedding is acceptable if you’re thatched. Black, deep purple or maroon sheets are to be left in the shop. Or ideally burned.”
    • “One way to make sure your bedroom is up there with the hoity-toity is to display a beaten up teddy bear, stuffed with memories of the nursery.”
    • “Upon rising, it is important to change and dress for breakfast if you wish to frolic both outside and inside the sheets with the PLU set [People Like Us -Ed.]. Eating kippers in your pyjamas is not on.”
    • “The best houses are big houses. Big, rattling and totally impractical. Therefore, they are cold. Especially now as impoverished aristos and gentry struggle to keep the central heating running at all – unless they sellout to costume dramas. Cold? Pop an extra dog on the bed rather than reach for the radiator. Cheaper and warmer, by far. Très chic!”

He also has a wonderful Twitter.

So what do you all think? Satire or serious? It has to be satire, right?