Simon Heffer reviews, or rather is offended by, a new book on the origin of manners:
As I wandered through this increasingly unfathomable book — if it has a thesis, I for one missed it — two elements of the bleeding obvious appeared to be missing. The first was the idea that most manners have evolved because most of us, whichever class we spring from, behave towards others as we would like them to behave towards us: so, unless downright barbaric, we do not defecate in front of other people, or vomit over them, or spit at them, or tell them their wives are ugly or stupid.
The second is that the most recent chapter in the evolution of manners is through what the right calls political correctness. The terms used half a century ago to describe ethnic minorities, or disabled people, or people of minority sexual orientations are not acceptable in most polite society today. Manners are made by fashion and by peer pressure.
“If it is not rude to say so,” he finishes, “[the book] should have been better edited and about half as long.” It may be, but perhaps well deserved.