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A Life Well Lived - Having Style 

Etiquette Manners - part one

Spartanburg Herald-Journal
Date: 04/16/2003    Section: Life    Page: D1
By: Karen Nutt

It would be rude to turn the page to read Dear Abby or Dr. Donohue
without finishing this interesting column first.

But not everybody knows that. (Actually, only my friends whom I bug
every Wednesday to read this column do know that.) Etiquette and the origins of certain things we do to be polite have been on my mind since I hooked up with etiquette expert Cindy Grosso, founder of the Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette Inc., a few weeks ago to answer a reader's question about wearing hats indoors.

One addition to that column: The removal of hats also stems from when a
man took off his helmet in the presence of a king. That act showed the king that he was not afraid of him but, rather,believed that the king would protect him.

Ever wonder why we shake hands as a greeting? Who better to go to with
the answers than from a woman who lives in the country's "Most Mannerly
City"?  By the way, Charleston was honored with that distinction in January for
the ninth consecutive year.

Anyway, shaking hands goes back to days of chivalry, and it really
started with shaking elbows. Upon meeting, two knights would hold each other's elbow and slide down the forearm to the hand, checking for hidden weapons, according to Grosso. "They were making sure the right hand was weapon-free," Grosso said, adding that the gesture essentially means "I come in peace."

So why the right hand/elbow? It has nothing to do with the fact more
people are right-handed. Rather, the left hand protected the heart from
potential stab wounds. The right hand was the weapon hand, she explained.

Today, there are two basic rules on who extends the hand first. In a
social situation when a woman meets a man, the woman has the prerogative to
extend her hand or not. In other words, the man should wait for the woman to extend her hand first. If she doesn't, then a handshake should not take place.

In business, however, it's based on military protocol, and gender is not a
consideration. The person of higher authority (i.e., your boss) is supposed to extend
first. But not everyone in the business community knows that piece of
etiquette. The solution? Give the person of higher authority a chance to extend first, and if he/she doesn't, then go ahead and extend yours. If you value your job, do
not tell the higher authority that he/she goofed etiquette-wise by not
extending his/her hand first.

"A lot of people do not know who should extend first. In business, a
handshake is expected," said Grosso, who teaches business etiquette and
protocol for companies around the country.

She added that a left-handed handshake is fine when someone is unable to
shake with the right hand due to a disability. In that case, Grosso said,
allow the disabled person to lead.

"It's interesting to talk about the history of the handshake because
it's something we do every day," Grosso said.

Next week, we'll look at the history of etiquette, why we "clink"
glasses for a toast, why a toast is called a toast and why we say "bless
you" when someone sneezes, as well as the differences between Northern and
Southern manners.

Write to Karen Nutt, 123 Barley Mill Road, Moore, S.C. 29369 or

Source: Article published in the Spartanburg-Herald Journal

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