The Reason For The No Elbows Rule At The Table

There are several rules at the dinner table that seem to make sense. Eating with your mouth closed is just good manners, while napkins on your lap will keep you safe from stains when you stand up. But what exactly is the deal with the no elbows rule at the table?

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Ready To Fight

The main reason why it became etiquette to keep your elbows off the table has to do with fighting. The rule was installed so people eating dinner at the table were able to show their hosts and tablemates that they weren’t a threat. It was important that people could see you were doing your best to be civilized and considerate to others around you. Failure to do so suggested your behavior was unpredictable, and you may start fighting at any moment.

Creating A Border

The general rule was to ensure that your arms remained within the confines of your tableware, which acted as a border. By keeping your elbows off the table, there was less chance that you would sneak into someone else’s space. If you ignored the border created by your cutlery, it suggested you had a general lack of restraint.

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Recent Rules

While the fear of a fight breaking out is no longer a common concern at the dinner table, the no elbows rule has remained a part of etiquette. Leaning forward with your elbows on the table can make it harder for others around you to have a conversation. Plus there is always the risk of dipping your elbow into someone else’s food if you aren’t careful.