Anatomy of a Dinner Party: a day in the life of a hospitalityaholic

Elbows Taboo Answer

Written by Patti on June 16th, 2011

Good Morning Darlings!

I had a plethora of interesting guesses as to why we don’t put our elbows on the table on Facebook yesterday.

Colin guessed “personal space.”

Michelle answered, “Was it some funky medieval thing that had to do with hiding weapons or keeping your enormous sleeves out of the soup?” (I really liked this answer).

Wesley inquired, “Does it have something to do with poison?” (among other unmentionable answers).

My friends at Cake Hag came up with, “Gypsy tradition? Elbows on faux-tables that were set up around campfires caused the tabletop to overturn, spilling the food and wine, and starting gypsy wars?” This might be the closest answer yet.

Here’s what I found.

The great houses and castles of England during the middle ages did not have dining tables in the great halls, so tables were made from trestles and covered with a cloth. The diners sat along one side only; if they put their elbows on the table and leant too heavily, the table could collapse.

I also read that there were so many diners at these tables that if you put up your elbows, your dining companions would have no room to eat.

So, is this an outdated rule? Yes and no.

Are you a new mom? Getting no sleep? You are exempt.

Miss Peggy Post, at the Emily Post Institute, and author of Emily Post Etiquette, 17th Edition says it is fine between courses and once the table has been cleared. Otherwise, place your hands in your lap if you are not using them to eat.

And that’s your etiquette lesson for the day. It makes it much more fun when you understand where these manners originated, doesn’t it?

xoxo, Patti

Today blogging to Big Don – Good Manners Song


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