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September 13: Miss Manners

September 13, 2014

missmannersJudith Martin (Judith Sylvia Perlman), the Washington DC journalist who at the height of the revolutionary 1970s told the baby-boomer generation NOT to “let it all hang out” in her role as etiquette columnist “Miss Manners,” was born on this date in 1938. She launched her column in the Washington Post in 1978. It now appears three times a week in some 200 newspapers. Martin has identified “blatant greed” as the most serious etiquette problem in America. In 2006 she served as special correspondent for the Colbert Report, reporting on the White House press corps’ mostly bad manners. Her many books include Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior and Miss Manners’ Guide to Raising Perfect Children. Martin attributes much of her etiquette knowledge to her grandmother, who “lived a very formal social life in Europe. I learned many things from her: One should only wear odd numbers of circles of pearls; a lady never checks her coat in a restaurant; when you set the table, you have to set it for four even if you have fewer people coming.” More significantly, she notes that “If you’re a hermit on a mountain, you don’t have to worry about etiquette; if someone comes up on the mountain, then you’ve got a problem.”

“In my family, Jewish values were expressed in valuing education. Everybody taught.... None of us are capable of learning the smallest thing without having someone to teach it to.” —Judith Martin