- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First American Edition edition (November 5, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374266751
- ISBN-13: 978-0374266752
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Sorry!: The English and Their Manners Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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Although most people have some idea of what good (or bad) manners are, it’s less likely they know where they come from. Hitchings addresses that through a comprehensive historical review, with some fun tidbits along the way. He brings the perspectives of the past to bear on customs of the present, using examples from writers such as Samuel Pepys, Lord Chesterfield, and Fanny Trollope. This rambling examination is concerned only with English manners, not those of other British countries. Hitchings is affectionate toward typically English mannerisms such as tactfully saying one thing, when meaning another—when told, “We really must have lunch sometime,” does anyone believe it’ll actually happen? The book contains some illuminating examples of how manners are a social construct and can vary widely across cultures. The tour of manners encompasses living conditions, language, social structures, innovations, and philosophy throughout centuries. This is not a book of etiquette instruction, but deconstruction. For those who wish to dig deeper into the myriad forces at work behind polite customs, large and small, the book is sure to please. --Bridget Thoreson
“Henry Hitchings, the author of Sorry! The English and Their Manners has his work cut out for him. Thankfully, he seems to relish ripping the vanities and entitlements of self-proclaimed behavioral experts to shreds. Hitchings . . . has earned a reputation as that rare nonfiction author who suffuses his rigorous (and at times slightly eccentric) scholarly research with enough wit and lively skepticism to render otherwise dull passages entertaining. This reputation proves accurate: as the author embarks on his colorful, rambling, and critically exacting exploration of the evolution of English rules of behavior, it becomes obvious that he could make a detailed history of the canned food industry sing like a coloratura . . . He comes across more as a scattered but lovable history professor whose classes are legendarily entertaining . . . Not only does Hitchings charm us with illustrative details straight out of the gate, but, as he advances from medieval mores through the Renaissance and on to the Victorian era, he never loses sight of the conflicts inherent in the regulation of human behavior . . . The sharpness of Hitchings's analysis and the intensity of his passion for his subject shine through on every page.” ―Heather Havrilesky, The Barnes and Noble Review
“In this terrifically entertaining, surprisingly thoughtful book about manners and Englishness, Hitchings describes his own country's culture as a paradox: simultaneously rude and polite . . . Like a good conversation, [Sorry!] allows for many fruitful digressions . . . Hitchings is a lively guide through these thickets, pointing out the bizarre while inviting us to take another look at just how our conventional manners, so inevitable to us now, arose from history, circumstance, and luck.” ―Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe
“[Sorry! is an] entertaining and informative survey of English manners past and present.” ―Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“Part social history, part cultural critique, the book moves humorously from the ancient to the modern with pithy anecdotes and amusing factoids. In the medieval court of Henry II, ‘One shouldn't attack an enemy while he is defecating, should avoid sharing secrets with one's wife, and ought to look towards the ceiling when belching.' . . . This seriously amusing and illuminating book goes a long way toward explaining to Anglophobe, Anglophile, and the just plain puzzled why ‘the average Briton says "Sorry" eight times a day.'” ―Publishers Weekly
“Hitchings clearly has fun with his subject(s), both the English themselves and the code of conduct that has evolved since the Middle Ages--when, he notes, someone commodiously counseled that ‘one should not attack an enemy while he is at stool.' Evolve is a useful term here, since, as Hitchings notes, manners are not static . . . Hitchings' book . . . [is] a pleasure to read.” ―Kirkus
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