How To Borrow From A Friend

The important thing to remember about borrowing things from friends is that you have to give whatever you took back. Do whatever it takes to remember this. Don’t put, say a book, with your own books. Keep it separate. Even set a reminder on your calendar to return it by a certain date.

When you are asking to borrow something, pay attention to your friends tone of voice. If they seem reluctant to let you borrow it, let it go. Don’t ask to borrow things that are very valuable or sentimental.

Treat anything you borrow with the absolute best care and return it in absolutely the condition you found it in. If you damage it in any way, offer to repair or replace it.

Say thank you when you return it. And if your friend asks for it back, return it ASAP.

If your friend has borrowed something:

Try to put your name on it, especially for a book or a DVD or something. People are much more likely to remember to return it.

If you need it back, just ask nicely. If they keep flaking, you might need to go to their house to get it yourself.

Don’t lend out anything that you would seriously miss if it was never returned.




(PS. Jaya, I will return your book ASAP, I promise, XOXOXO)

Thank Goodness We Don’t Have To Do That Anymore: Tiara Etiquette

Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister) wore her tiara in the bath.

The good news is that none of this tiara etiquette really exists anymore (except for people who go to state banquets and the like), so feel free to wear tiaras whenever you want.

  • Unmarried women shouldn’t wear them- this is why they are often worn on a wedding day.
  • Being able to wear a tiara isn’t dictated by your social rank but rather by the occasion (um, and actually being able to afford one or pull strings to borrow one.)
  • Tiaras are worn for white tie, occasionally black tie, and state events. This means only very, very fancy times.
  • Tiaras are eveningwear. The QUEEN OF ENGLAND did not wear a tiara to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s morning wedding, so neither should you.
  • Often for “tiara events” the invitation will state “tiaras will be worn”
  • Tiaras shouldn’t be worn in hotels or public ballrooms. Only if your friends are fancy enough to have their own ballrooms. But you can wear them to dinner in a private home if the dress code is white tie- go figure.
  • Tiaras should be worn so that the jewels are parallel to the ground or at a slight angle to the ears, never as a “headband”.
  • Not etiquette but a fun fact: many royal and other famous tiaras easily break apart into sets of necklaces, earrings, and brooches so the pieces can be worn more frequently. Who knew royals were so thrifty?

Coronets are a different matter and ARE linked to rank and can only be worn by people of that rank. Peers wear a coronet (a silver gilt circlet) along with along with ceremonial robes at the coronation of the Monarch only.

Elevator Etiquette

I find large banks of elevators mildly terrifying. [via Wikimedia Commons]

Like door etiquette, elevator etiquette seems like it should be self-explanatory. But that appears not to be the case, so here are some tips:

  1. Try to avoid taking the elevator to the 2nd or 3rd floor if you are capable of using the stairs and if there are even stairs (my office building doesn’t have easily accessible stairs, so I often take the elevator to the 2nd floor.)
  2. If you do know that you are getting off at a lower floor, try to get on the elevator last.
  3. If you are next to the door and someone needs to get off, step off the elevator to let them pass before getting back on.
  4. When there is a crowd waiting for the elevator, do your best to let those who have been waiting longest board first.
  5. Keep conversation to a minimum, no one wants to listen to you and your pal.
  6. Face the door. Anything else makes people uncomfortable.
  7. If there is someone running for the elevator and it isn’t very full, be kind and hold the door.
  8. If there is an elevator operator (some buildings still have them!), clearly tell them what floor you are going to and thank them when you get off.
  9. Don’t press (or let your bratty kid) press all of the buttons.
  10. Let people getting off the elevator off before you try to get on.


Spoiler Alert! Are Spoilers Rude?

The ultimate spoiler. [Via]

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

What is the etiquette on posting TV spoilers on social media? I thought you had to wait until at least the following day? A guy in my feed posted something about Game of Thrones before I got a chance to watch it that same night!


Totally Spoiled


Official Etiquette:

Both Miss Manners and the Emily Post Institute say that the onus is on you to avoid spoilers.

Our Take:

Victoria:  Okay, so spoilers. I have people on my Facebook wall threatening to de-friend other people for posting Game of Thrones spoilers. This is serious business! And should be an interesting discussion because I HATE spoilers and I know you don’t mind them. I think definitely you shouldn’t post anything at all until the episode has aired in all markets (for tv).

Jaya: Definitely, and also I like the point that sometimes popular shows air at the same time. Some people say that if you “really care” you’ll watch the show as soon as it airs, but maybe you wanted to watch two shows and DVR’ed one, and you think you’re safe if you watch it immediately after!

Victoria Hahah just avoid the internet entirely until you’ve watched everything. Ugh no. Personally, I don’t think you should post a spoiler in any kind of headline, ever.

Jaya:  Definitely not in headlines, but that’s more of a journalistic integrity thing. I do think some of this is self preservation. The chances of spoilers happening on social media is so high for really popular shows, so if not being spoiled is important to you, maybe avoid it. Though I don’t want to victim blame here…

Victoria Like it’s fine to say OMG GAME OF THRONES TONIGHT WAS INSANE but not like, this THING happened.

Jaya:  And even writing SPOILER ALERT: SO AND SO DIED is bad.  You read those words at the same time, that spoiler alert does nothing.

Victoria Yeah! I hate sneaky spoilers too- I once had something spoiled for me in a discussion of something completely unrelated.

Jaya:  Within a reasonable time frame, or way after the fact?

Victoria Waaaay after, but still.

Jaya:  I mean, I had lots of stuff in The Wire spoiled for me, but it aired 10 years ago, I should not expect people to not talk about it.

Victoria Yeah, I agree. And I mean, on the internet, its one thing. But I think if you are talking about something with actual people in person, it’s polite to ask “have you seen this, are you going to see it, do you mind if I talk about spoilers?”

Jaya:  I agree to an extent, but I do think there is a statue of limitations. Everyone is busy and may not have gotten around to consuming a show or movie or book they want to consume, but do you have to do it for everything? I haven’t seen Godfather II, should people check with me before discussing a famous movie that came out 40 years ago? If I’m discussing a mutually-enjoyed TV show with a friend, do I have to announce to everyone within earshot that they may want to move to another room?

Victoria I think that it’s fine to talk about old stuff in a general way, but you should still try to avoid real “spoilers” in the sense of things that actually spoil a big twist or surprise. And honestly, I think people do this pretty naturally.

Jaya:  True. I guess part of this conversation taps into my dislike of the idea of “spoilers” in general. I tend to think that a good story should not rely on a “twist,” and that the journey of an art form, not finding out what happens at the end, is what matters. Even if you know every detail of what happens in a story, you do not know how that story is told, and that is the true joy of art. But I get that not everyone thinks that way.

Victoria I see your point with that.

Jaya:  And I make an effort not to reveal anything that isn’t general cultural knowledge. But I’m sorry but if you don’t know the twist of The Sixth Sense you’ll just have to know it now.

Victoria Yeah, I guess some major things are such a cliche at this point that they aren’t even really spoilers. But man, if you are talking about a movie and someone says “I haven’t seen that yet” and you deliberately spoil it- that’s just not cool,

Jaya:  Oh yeah! That’s a dick move. But if you’re talking about Citizen Kane, and reveal something, and a person shouts “UGH way to go dude, I haven’t seen it,” I don’t think that’s my fault.  I think the longer a certain piece of media has been out, the more it’s on you to be vigilant about not getting spoiled.

Victoria And I personally am pretty good at catching them- I saw The Wire without any spoilers! Because I was hyper vigilant about not reading ANYTHING about The Wire, or like, Baltimore in general.

Jaya:  Hahaha, yeah! Like if you know you’re gonna watch The Wire, and someone brings it up, it may be your job to remove yourself from the conversation. Obviously this is harder on social media when things just pop up, but also maybe have a sense of humor. There was a Portlandia sketch that “spoiled” one Wire point for me. Oh well, it’s been 10 years, I’ve had enough time. And it’s not like knowing it made the show worse.

Victoria Yeah, I have actually sought out things after they were spoiled because it made them sound more interesting than I had originally thought!

Jaya:  Hahahaha, yeah! that’s the flip side of spoilers! But yeah, with social media, definitely not that day for TV shows, or probably the first week or two a movie is out. Books I don’t know.

Victoria: Yeah, books, maybe a few months?

Jaya:  Also I feel like books are so complicated that if you say “omg I can’t believe Anna didn’t get the abortion in This Novel” I’d be like okay, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

Victoria Yeah, the only major book spoiler i can think of is the big Harry Potter one.

Jaya:  You mean that Ron is the last horcrux?

Victoria Basically.

Nancy Mitford and U vs Non-U Speech

Nancy Mitford calling to say you sound like a pleb. [Via]

Obviously, I think that etiquette and manners today has nothing to do with wealth or social class- manners are for everyone! Historically, however, the rise of etiquette books in the Victorian period had a lot to do with the growing middle class and their desire to act like the upper classes. So someone had to teach them how to act. But then the rich caught onto this and constantly changed the rules to throw the middle classes off. Nice, huh? The moral of the story, is that there was (is?) a way to tell social class, regardless of money or education.

In the 1950s, Nancy Mitford (of the endlessly fascinating Mitford sisters), borrowed an idea from British linguist Alan S. C. Ross about U vs non-U vocabulary and wrote a very popular essay about it, “The English Aristocracy,” in which she gave a list of words that were Upper Class (U) and their non-U (not Upper Class) counterparts. She argues that with the Upper Classes in Britain no longer being necessarily richer or better educated than anyone else, their language was the only thing left to distinguish them as Upper Class/aristocratic.

A selection:

A Nice House
Lunch then Dinner
A Lovely Home
Pass on
Settee or Couch
Dinner then Supper (except U-children and U-dogs also have these meals!) [ed. this is my fave]








Interestingly, Emily Post had her own list of “U vs Non-U” vocabulary in 1920 (30 years before Nancy Mitford’s famous essay). Some of Emily’s choices:

At our house we go to bed early (or get up)
Beautiful house—or place
Went to
Gave him a dinner
Had something to drink
In our residence we retire early (or arise)
Elegant home
Tendered him a banquet
Partook of liquid refreshment
Perform ablutions






Perhaps you will notice a pattern in both the Mitford and Post lists- a large portion of the “non-U” word choices are pretentious and overly wordy. Mitford actually says that the “non-U” speakers are mostly among the middle class- the lower classes tend to use the same words as the U speakers. The reason for this is that the lower and upper classes were pretty comfortable with their station and it was only the middle classes that were striving to “better themselves” by using fancy words that they thought sounded upper class.

Now, Mitford’s essay wasn’t completely accepted as truth, even at the time. Evelyn Waugh wrote a rebuttal essay that was published in Noblesse Oblige: a book containing Mitford’s essay, the original article by Ross, Waugh’s rebuttal, and other related essays. Waugh argues that these “U” and “Non-U” differences don’t actually exist as language is constantly in a state of flux and is also regional and family specific.

Today, especially in America, I don’t think you can pick out any words as being specifically upper vs middle class (unless you are the type of person to see entire regions as more lower class than the region you live in!), our culture is too homogenized for that, and it seems that differences are more regional and generational.  Though in 1983, Paul Fussell argued that America does have a class system in Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. His benchmarks for upper, middle, and lower class were: the upper class says “Grandpa died,” the middle class says “Grandpa passed away,” and the lower class says “Grandpa went to Jesus.”

However, I think the point about pretension vs being comfortable with yourself absolutely does exist, and for that reason, Emily Post’s list seems to hold up pretty well. Pretension is sort of rude because it is extreeeemely annoying- we all know someone who uses “myself” instead of “me” (incorrectly) and other big words that they don’t seem to know the meaning of, or they just talk in a roundabout manner of “needing to equip themselves with the necessary instruments of learning” instead of “buying school supplies.” This kind of thing makes everyone uncomfortable, and as we all know, causing discomfort in others is one of the hallmarks of rudeness.

What say you? Is pretension rude? Are there any words or phrases that you would argue are definitively class-based? Are middle class people in Britain really trying to act working class? Tell me in the comments!!