Old-school etiquette

Via Gab comes this very useful illustration of a full table setting.  Click the image for a larger view.

I don’t know anyone who uses full place settings any longer – they’re really a relic of pre-World War II fine dining – but the diagram is still useful with less extensive settings.  Simply leave out the items one lacks, and arrange what one has in the order show.

So, if you’re ever in doubt about how to lay the table, or in which order to use the cutlery at one’s place, now you know.



  1. It is always god to know the little civilized things, as one never knows when one will be thrown to the civilized wolves, who will kill you (mentally and verbally) over little social gaffes.

    And it's always fun to out-snob the snobs. Just because I look like a hairy barbarian doesn't mean that I am.

  2. What do you mean 'pre-WWII'? My mother every so often would have us set the table Russian service style so we could practice using it. Plus all the other formal etiquette that goes with it.

    Oh yeah, we got to practice the correct way to wash and care for crystal, silverware and fine china, too. I think she really just wanted to get all it washed, again.

  3. Oh, Wow. I think I'll share this with my kids. It's the kind of random esoterica that grabs their attention.

  4. Sacrilege!

    The desert spoon goes above the desert fork! That sherry glass should be a desert wine glass (port, sherry, whisky, and brandy are served in separate glasses brought round at the end of the meal). The seafood fork is on the wrong side. The teaspoon shouldn't be there at all if it's for tea or coffee; its placement is fine for something served in a tiny cup. And so on.

  5. I had not been aware of the fish fork. And a fish knife. But no fish spoon?? Oh wait, the last two are in the tackle box.

  6. Ugh. That makes me think that some people way back when had far too little to take up their time other than to dream up ever more intricate protocol to distinguish themselves from the proles, who nevertheless faithfully aped the manners of their "betters". That's just ridiculous.

  7. My mom came from depression era dirt farmers with ten kids, but she taught me how to set a table with knife, fork, and spoon. How to tie a necktie and which button to button on a suit, although I never owned one as a youngster. (And thank you Uncle Sam for some refinements)
    Several years ago I bought the wifmann a twelve piece place setting of very nice China (grim story involving her childhood experiences involved).
    The next year it was glassware/crystal. I did not know there were separate glasses for water and ice tea.
    The following year I started on the silverware.
    Did you you know that there are specific utensils for serving fried oysters?
    Every month or so an additional piece or two.
    The biggest problem is that , by nature, I am a "completer".
    The wifmann says she has everything she wants, but the incomplete silverware/serving pieces drives me nuts when I think about it.
    It is a good thing I am able compartmentalism.

  8. My mother insured her children could set a table. That, and the correct manners involved.

    As my mother aged, and some things became less important, the large family events meant paper plates, plastic cups, and even plastic utensils on some occasions. We would finish, and she'd say: "It's time to throw away the dishes."

  9. Mr. Needham,

    If/when one is sufficiently-civilized so as to set a table-service properly and completely, one simply does not ever permit the serving, at table, of any item of victuals that might somehow require any utensil that is not immediately-present within the setting…

    (And there are, in fact, both a proper "Dinner Fork" and a proper "Meat Knife" present in that complete setting; I assure you, any steak that would grace a dinner table that was properly-set as shown, would be sufficiently-tender so as to be cut completely into properly-sized single bites by the use of said "Meat Knife")

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