Proverbial Etiquette Love
by Sarah E. Kidder
I admit it: I love etiquette. I appreciate the idea that there are guidelines by which people (can) live, which allow life to be pleasant, even when faced with unpleasant situations-- perhaps while having to interact with people you’d really rather not. To put it mildly that there is an “out” for people who do not want to be terribly mean, yet have no interest in catering to mean people brings me polite joy. I also love the concept that with consistency clues are given: clues as to how to dress for a party (so that you fit in), what to expect at an event (so you are not starving), and so on.
I was fortunate enough to study with the acclaimed Professor Alan Dundes [world renowned folklorist]. His teaching left a powerful imprint on me, and even helped me find the path that combines my interest in folklore with my love of etiquette. The relevancy of the Sumerian proverbs he introduced to me and my further research for this project really lit my world on fire, and is developing into a career training and writing on etiquette.
The Sumerian proverbs are among the oldest writings of the world. They are older than Gilgamesh, and predate Homer. The clues in their proverbs tell of a civilization of trade, lovers, drinkers, people trying to make ends meet, and people with an appreciation, a need, for manners. Etiquette and social norms are evident in the writings, and have stood the test of time in the form of these cuneiform tablets and daily actions. What better argument for it’s being of, for, and about the ordinary folk, than to have the ordinary folk keep these traditions intact for 5000 years?
My first book, on its way soon, delves into the connections between modern and ancient Sumerian etiquette.