Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Manners Maketh Man

Kate and I were watching Kingsman: The Secret Service when early on in the movie Colin Firth does some serious butt kicking. See it at:

As he is told to leave by the nasty hooligans, he gets up and walks away. Then, in a scene pinched from The Coward of the County song lyrics, instead of walking out the door he locks the door and tears them apart, but not before saying “Manners maketh man.”

That touched off a discussion between Kate and myself as to whether the expression was as quoted by Colin Firth or “manners maketh the man.”

Some comments:

“Manners maketh man” is by William of Wykeham (1324-1404 ) and is the motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford

Various translations from the Latin and various meanings have been offered:

“Manners make us human.” (“Manners” in this context means polite behaviour, etiquette).

“Manners are the basis of our society.”

“Your mannerisms and behavioural characteristics make you who you are.” (This adopts the meaning for “manners” as gentlemanliness, a sense of fair play, doing the right thing on all occasions, being beyond moral reproach).

One writer has pointed out that: 
. . . the Oxford English Dictionary shows that 'manners' was used with both meanings at the time this phrase originated, the first being closer to what we mean by 'character', the second closer to the modern use of manners, meaning 'etiquette'.
4 a. A person's habitual behaviour or conduct; morals. Obs.
5 a. Outward bearing, deportment; a person's characteristic style of attitude, gesture, or speech.

In current use, the intended meaning is likely to be a reference to knowledge and practice of social customs. However, you will have to look at the context to know for certain.

Another writer:
"It means that a man is nothing if he does not have manners and that the sum of his being can be defined by how well heeled he is and how a considerate persona typifies a gentleman’s worth.  
in other words having manners and being considerate and treating people with respect is what defines a man and makes him a man that ability to show humility and kindness is what defines that person and probably we think and we should know that it's what defines a human being.

Ultimately it typefies what someone once said about a rhinoceros: hard to describe but you know one when you see one.

According to "The Gentleman's Guide" on the film's official website, "The Rules" of a Kingsman Gentleman are as follows: 

(1) A gentleman never tells about conquests, private matters, or dealings. His business is nobody else's. 

(2) A gentleman doesn't clash in public with enemies or exes, or worse, with out-of-fashion contrasts, colors or styles. 

(3) A gentleman is always happy to serve, whether it's opening the door, picking up the bill, or merely calling a cab the next morning. Ask him for help and he cannot refuse. 

(4) A gentleman never reacts to rudeness. He pretends he doesn't recognize it and moves on like it never happened, because it never should have. 

(5) A gentleman is always on target with witty remarks, interesting facts, and conversation starters that bring the best out of everyone. 

(6) A gentleman asks non-invasive questions to keep a conversation going and attention focused on others. He makes them feel like the most interesting person he's ever met, whether that's true or not.


The comments by Robert Duvall as Hub McCann in Secondhand Lions (a marvellous movie, well worth watching) in his “Everything a boy needs to know in becoming a man” speech are a part of that . . . 

" Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage and virtue mean everything; that power and money ... money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this.... that love....true love never dies! Remember that boy ... remember that. Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in...... got that? "


  1. This was a wonderful article that intrigued me at the least after I watched the movie Kingsman