Friday, February 17, 2012


A Rule of Etiquette

Lindsay Goldwert, "Ew! 75% admit to calling, texting on the toilet," New York Daily News (February 2, 2012):
America's obsession with smart phones has come to a head.

Approximately 75% of people take their cell phones into the bathroom with them, according to a survey by the marketing agency 11Mark.

Out of 1,000 people polled, 87% of Android users admitted to talking, texting, or surfing the web while in the restroom, reports

BlackBerry and iPhone users were also unlikely to part with their phones just because nature called.

According to the survey, BlackBerry users are most likely to answer (75%) or make (48%) a call, while iPhone users are most likely to participate in social networking (52%) or to use an app (57%).
I myself don't carry a cell phone and so have never called, texted, or used an app while taking a crap, but perhaps this widespread practice has caused me to violate inadvertently another rule of etiquette, one laid down by Erasmus in his treatise De Civilitate Morum Puerilium (1530), viz. "It is impolite to greet someone who is urinating or defecating."

I owe the Erasmus reference to Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process. The Development of Manners. Changes in the Code of Conduct in Early Modern Times, tr. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Urizen Books, 1978), p. 130, who also cites (p. 133) Johann Christian Barth, The Gallant Ethic, in which it is shown how a young man should commend himself to polite society through refined acts and complaisant words. Prepared for the special advantage and pleasure of all amateurs of present-day good manners, 4th ed. (Desden and Leipzig, 1731), p. 288:
If you pass a person who is relieving himself you should act as if you had not seen him, and so it is impolite to greet him.
If I have ever inadvertently called someone on the telephone who answered while on the toilet, I apologize for violating the rule against greeting someone who is urinating or defecating.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


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