Cover image for Star-spangled manners : in which Miss Manners defends American etiquette (for a change)
Star-spangled manners : in which Miss Manners defends American etiquette (for a change)
Martin, Judith, 1938-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., [2003]

Physical Description:
319 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Revolutionary etiquette -- The pitch : equality and dignity, once and for all -- The producers : the founding fathers invent a civilized America -- The concept : all men are created equal -- The plot : citizen meets success -- The stars : be anything, but be yourself -- The supporting case : all those without whom -- The show stoppers : emceeing ceremonies and celebrations -- Costumes, props, and sets : the designer life -- Publicity and marketing : pitching your persona -- A critique : to achieve an even more nearly perfect etiquette.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BJ1853 .M298 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this "wryly perceptive, historically informed" (BookPage) new book, America's leading expert on civility reminds her Gentle Readers that when the Founding Fathers created a revolution in the name of individual liberty and equality, they also took a stand against hierarchical European etiquette in favor of simplicity over ceremony, and personal dignity over obsequiousness to our rulers.

Hailed by George Will as "The National Bureau of Standards," Judith Martin, who has "made etiquette writing an exercise in wit" (Book), recounts here how Americans fashioned this etiquette of egalitarian respect--a fascinating story that spans from the misunderstood origins of our table manners to the much overlooked legacy of African slaves to etiquette.

Author Notes

Judith Martin, born a perfect lady in an imperfect society, is the author of the "Miss Manners" columns and best-selling books, two novels, and a travel book on Venice. She and her husband live in Washington, DC.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For a country infamous for airing its dirty laundry on Jerry Springer and embarrassed by headlines recounting egregious cases of road rage, airplane rage, and even express-checkout-lane rage, America must appear to those watching as the Land of the Etiquette-Averse. And so it is with tongue firmly planted in cheek that America's arbiter of all things civilized, "Miss Manners," finds herself in the unusual position of defending a nation whose ostensible lack of breeding furnishes her raison d'etre. Beginning with Founding Fathers Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson, Martin's history of American etiquette reveals just how and why we became a nation that eschewed European pomp in defense of colonial circumstance. While proposing that the prevailing penchant for political correctness is, essentially, etiquette run amok, Martin skewers the hypocrisy that has stripped that most basic model of American manners, the Declaration of Independence, of its "all men are created equal" premise. Only she could uncover the paradox between our country's actions and words. Although Martin's pedantic punditry often overshadows the beauty and sly cunning of her arguments, her insights remain peerless. From cradle to grave, Martin analyzes every aspect of American life and the rituals that both define and undermine our culture to show us that, although we still may not know what to do, we can at least know why we do it. --Carol Haggas

Publisher's Weekly Review

Martin, aka bestselling author and columnist Miss Manners, has a vision for Americans as saviors of the civilized world. Her argument is based on two notions: first, that American manners are bad, and second, that because the United States is a nation of immigrants who share "the desire to be treated fairly, the imagination to sketch a new life, and the determination to pursue it," Americans are uniquely positioned to improve their manners and create an etiquette system that could serve as a model for the international community. Martin acknowledges that not all citizens will acquiesce to this new and improved etiquette, but she has a suggestion for how to handle that; we must discourage bullying and bashing through the simple exercise of social disapproval and exclusion. In support of her thesis, Martin provides a history of American manners, from the founding fathers, who first envisioned an "etiquette of equality," through the present day, when "equality" is often misused and greed and selfishness reign. But the original principle of equality stands, says Martin, an astute observer of social customs and manners who cares deeply about the instability of tradition and rituals, a shift in emphasis from the family to the individual and the tendency to value frankness above tact. But she heaps one observation on top of another without ever quite pulling together the pieces, and the details of how this new etiquette is to be developed are painfully glossed over for an issue so central to our national (and international) well-being. (Nov. 4) Forecast: This work of social criticism is weightier than Martin's usual fare and may appeal to a smaller audience. But Norton is banking on big sales, with a six-figure first printing and a 10-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A history of American manners, from the moment we threw off European etiquette and took the straight and simple way. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.