General Question

JLeslie's avatar

Does it bother you or do you judge people who do not hold their fork and knife properly?

Asked by JLeslie (54594points) August 16th, 2009

My husband and I notice this all of the time. People holding their eating utensils with a death-grip fist instead of controlling their flatware with their forefinger. My husband will say, “the meat is already dead, why do they do that?” I have had friends who have complimented me on how I use my eating utensils, mostly because they don’t know how to use theirs correctly. They will chase peas around a plate rather than enlist their knife to help place food on their fork. There are many rules of etiquette that don’t matter in my opinion or that I regularly break, but this one kind of bothers me.

I actually learned how to use my fork and knife correctly rather late, I was 15 and my boyfriend pointed out to me that I was holding the utensils incorrectly. I wish my parents had showed me when I was younger, they both hold their fork and knife correclty, but never bothered to demonstrate it to me.

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76 Answers

nebule's avatar

yes…but then…it only needs a little education….

sandystrachan's avatar

I don’t hold mine with the proper etiquette but i don’t use a death grip . Does it bother me how someone else hold and uses theirs , not really as long as they don’t use their cutlery on my plate .

hug_of_war's avatar

This seems awfully pretentious

PerryDolia's avatar

I notice it, but it doesn’t bother me. What I notice more is whether their style is working.

I couldn’t care less about “proper.”

nebule's avatar

its not really,...

edit: meant to be pretentious that is,,, just think that knife and fork manners is a pre-requisite for life… :-/

sandystrachan's avatar

It’s people who like to show whats in their mouths while eating , now they are the people to stay away from chomp chomp chomp people who make loud noises with ever working of their mouths .

DrasticDreamer's avatar

I think it looks kind of funny, but it doesn’t bother me too badly. It could just be that some people aren’t that coordinated.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

No, I don’t care.
Why should I worry about how people are using their forks when I’m trying to eat?
“My GOD, that hooligan is using an eating utensil in such an improper way, I’m going to discharge food I recently ate onto my lap! HOW DARE HE”

dpworkin's avatar

I hate it when hoi polloi fail to use the subjunctive case, or when they utter the word “hopefully” as other than an adverb. This sort of person should be confined to the scullery in order to be useful, and not seen in society.

eponymoushipster's avatar

I have family who swears this must be done, and family who considers it very snooty. I do it naturally now (continental style, i guess it’s called).

to me, it’s more effective than precutting everything.

lloydbird's avatar

Please don’t come on here and say things like “fork ‘n knife”.
Young children might read this!

AstroChuck's avatar

No. I also don’t care if they put their elbows on the table.

frdelrosario's avatar

I have a much harder time with people who notice and care about such things.

Congratulations on using your utensils properly. What a great boyfriend he was, to show you the right way.

rooeytoo's avatar

You also have to remember that the correct use of your knife and fork depends on where you live, I am still trying to learn how to use them aussie style. It isn’t easy to change after 50 some years.

Actually I really prefer chopsticks!

eponymoushipster's avatar

@rooeytoo you guys use utensils in Australia? I just assumed you poured beer in your dij and what not.~

cyn's avatar

I really don’t care how they use their utensils. It annoys me when they eat with their mouth open.
@AstroChuck I used to get in trouble for puuting my elbows on the table…..

frdelrosario's avatar

Everyone in this thread should have dinner with JLeslie, whose reactions should be taped. I’ll have a tough steak, fettucine with clam sauce and clam shell, and a scalding hot soup.

SuperMouse's avatar

I am not snooty, but to me a person not holding utensils correctly is an unpleasant sight. It looks incredibly awkward to me. My parents were sticklers for table manners, we were not allowed to eat until our napkins were on our laps, we were required to use each utensil correctly and to hold them correctly. To me poor table manners – which is what I consider this type of thing – are like poor grammar; neither is difficult to correct and both show respect for yourself and those around you.

JLeslie's avatar

@frdelrosario What the hell does that mean? I don’t say anything to the person or judge them, I just wonder how it is that they don’t see that the majority of the people around them don’t do it the same way. I said I break etiquette rules myself all of the time, I am not trying to act superior in any way.

Grisaille's avatar

Nah, not really.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started to become cognizant of my etiquette (I was working a high paying job in the city and started to realize that my dining mannerisms weren’t quite the same as the other socialites. I was once self-conscious, but eventually fell into the habit of maintaining good etiquette.), but it doesn’t bother me when I see someone holding their utensils incorrectly. Hey, it’s all going to the same place.

One small “but”. My cousin. He holds his spoon with an iron grip and shoves cereal in his mouth. Not only is it slightly repulsing, it is also horribly inefficient (resulting in the ever attractive milky chin). Clean yourself up, you damn hooligan.

JLeslie's avatar

Grisaille, as always you said it so well. That is the point of etiquette, if we all know the rules everyone feels more comfortable. It is not for people to feel superior, but for everyone to be at ease.

tinyfaery's avatar

No. What’s properly? What a stupid thing to be uncomfortable with. We should also kill all the left-handed people. How dare they be different.~

AstroChuck's avatar

B-but I’m left handed. :(

marinelife's avatar

I am with @rooeytoo. One culture’s proper use is not another’s. With the relaxation of so much etiquette, this is not a big deal to me compared to other stuff. plus. I have not seen a lot of it.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I chuckle then move on. I’m not in the least “bothered” by it.

Supacase's avatar

I can honestly say it has never crossed my mind.

alive's avatar

No. It bothers me that anyone would be bothered by, or judge someone for what they consider holding a utensil “improperly”.

First, there is no such thing as “right” or “wrong” when it comes to holding utensils (only cultural standards—don’t forget there are some who consider utensils bad taste and use their hands instead)

and second…. i’ve got bigger fish to fry (and eat, however i please)

Facade's avatar

It doesn’t bother me. People should do things correctly.

DominicX's avatar

I wouldn’t care, but mainly because I probably wouldn’t notice. It’s a little odd, but not that bad. Many table manners are, to me, (except for some like chewing with your mouth open, which is gross to look at) stuffy, OCD-inspired, and annoying. I’m not putting my damn napkin on my damn lap and you can’t make me.

Jack79's avatar

It doesn’t bother me, though I might find it funny sometimes. I always hold the fork in a weird way myself, but at least I hold the knife properly. I also like to eat with my elbows on the table…oooh! the horror!

rooeytoo's avatar

@eponymoushipster – you are confused, poor soul, the didge is used as a giant straw, you insert it into a keg and suck. Hopefully all the termites have been burned out and you won’t swallow too much debris, but after a while, it doesn’t matter anyhow!

This guy is a real Territorian, he uses 4 at once!!

SuperMouse's avatar

@tinyfaery I have a difficult time seeing the comparison between holding one’s utensils correctly and being left-handed, even sarcastically. It is very simple not to hold a fork or spoon as if it were a shovel, it is a habit to acquire that makes eating more comfortable not only for the diner, but for those dining with him/her. It is disconcerting to see someone resort to shoving food on their fork with their fingers because they can’t get the food their otherwise. It is uncomfortable to watch those who shovel food into their mouths drip it all down their chins.

Sarcasm's avatar

I’m one of the people who holds his knives “wrong”.
I’ve tried doing it “right” before.

Coincidentally, I’m able to enjoy my food much more easily when I do it the “wrong” way.
I’ve gotta say, utensil holding styles is the single weirdest thing I have ever seen somebody decide a “right” and “wrong” for.


Facade's avatar

@Sarcasm It’ll be ok

tinyfaery's avatar

Shoveling food in one’s mouth can happen while people are holding their utensils to your liking as well. I don’t see any connection between the two.

JLeslie's avatar

Wow. I didn’t mean to offend anyone, some of the responses seem so defensive and angry. If I could delete this question I would. I have seen other questions on etiquette where people have openly discussed what “rules” they do and don’t follow and what turns them off without such venum. Maybe I worded the question poorly?

@rooeytoo @Marina I agree cultural differences would affect expectations regarding this. I actually tend to not switch my fork to the other hand after cutting, which is European I guess? Americans usually switch or are expected to switch the fork back to their dominant hand. What is different about the Australians?

Sarcasm's avatar

@JLeslie It’s just really ridiculous to tag one style as “right” and other styles as “wrong” when there clearly isn’t a right or wrong.
It’s like saying someone prepares a sandwich wrong because they put the cheese on the left slice and condiments on the right slice.

rooeytoo's avatar

@JLeslie – most aussies use the european technique.

AstroChuck's avatar

See, this is exactly why I prefer finger foods.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I don’t judge based on that but there are situations in life where it benefits you to know proper formal dining etiquette.

Sampson's avatar

Does using the utensils a certain way make the food taste better or something?

jeanmay's avatar

@JLeslie There’s no shame in your game. It’s an interesting question. We all have our foibles, and our own ideas about the nature of a foible.

It is cultural. My husband is American and shovels with his fork, barely touches his knife. At first I was horrified, and I never thought such a thing would bother me – I never even considered that there was any other way of using cutlery. I’m used to it now, and actually I find it refreshing that my notion of normal can still be challenged in such ways as this. The more I travel, the more I find myself having to adjust my sensibilities.

I always considered myself well mannered, but now I live in South Korea and my table manners, along with my behaviour in general, is constantly surprising and appalling to my new friends here. My husband is still disgusted by my eating ketchup on eggs and pizza, by the way.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

if they haven’t starved to death by now, i don’t think it’s too much of a problem.

rooeytoo's avatar

@jennifermay – I think it is funny (forgive my insensitivity to other cultures) the way Korean people use a toothpick at the table but hide it behind their hand. I always had to fight a giggle when someone did that.

galileogirl's avatar

Continental and American style differ and there are billions who don’t use a knife and fork at all. I might embarrass friends because after nearly 30 years in SF I still have to ask for a fork in a Chinese restaurant.

gunther's avatar

There are more important things for me to think about than how someone else holds his fork.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

It doesn’t bother me if it’s not at my table, but it as rather disconcerting to be eating with someone who puts their elbow on the table, waves their fork in the air as they’re eating and talking (with food in their mouth), chews their food like a camel, and uses their thumb to push their food onto their fork.

JLeslie's avatar

The thing is I am completely understanding of different cultural styles, but I would say around the world how you HOLD your flatware is pretty universal, that is why I was curious about the Aussies, but it seems it is not a matter of how you hold it, just if you switch the fork back to the dominant hand. If you use chopsticks (which I have a lot of trouble with) that is different altogther. If an Asian person who never uses a fork and knife had trouble holding a fork and knife, I would be completely understanding of that.

The reason to hold your utensils with your forefinger out is it gives you better control and leverage so you have more force when you cut your food with less effort. If you just have a fist and try to cut through something tough, or if maybe the blade is a little dull your fist clentches tighter to control the fork and knife.

Napkin in lap is so if food falls you don’t stain your trousers (practical), and if the napkin begins to get dirty throughout the dinner it is not visible to other guests. At home I don’t always do this, it’s just good to know what is expected when you are out with a group.

Elbows on table, I do this all of the time, I think is held over from when tabletops were less stable so the top didn’t flip up, but I could be wrong, And, generally you are not supposed to lean forward at the table I think? This one is very hard for me, I catch myself doing all of the time.

I also at home bring the spoon towards me to get the last bits of soup or cereal, its not that I am the etiquette police or anything.

I just think it is good to know what is correct. If you go on a business meeting, or meet the parents for the first time you don’t want to look like you never ate out in a public place before. It is the same as wearing the appropriate clothing, and knowing how to shake someones hand.

wundayatta's avatar

Manners are another means to identify class and education, and to establish superiority. However, I have grown so used to certain kinds of manners, that it is really hard for me to eat with people who do not share these customs. I can be a little more open-minded if the people are foreigners who have very different upbringings, but for domestic citizens with different upbringings, it is much harder to be able to ignore it.

JLeslie's avatar

@daloon Interestingly, the whole idea of how you hold your fork and knife, especially when cutting your food I see as crossing all sorts of socio-economic lines. Probably, the upper class has this down, but I see among lower and middle class an equal showing of who is holding their utensils whichever way.

galileogirl's avatar

@daloon I can’t believe that is really you! I thought you more open-minded and catholic in your attitude. There was a time when families ate together and children learned table manners primarily through observation and sometimes by correction by adults in social situations, Over the last couple of generations we have let our children down. How many meals are finger food and a spork? How many times is a meal just tossed on the table or counter as the children eat on their own while parents do their own thing? Meals have gone from a family ritual to just filling up as fast as you can and move on.

If an adult tried to correct a child’s table manners, they might be insulted with MYOB. If you are offended by an acquaintance’s table manners, either privately educate them or don’t dine with them.

wundayatta's avatar

@JLeslie Manners are something that are taught, or not. You may not be aware of how much you learned by corrections from your parents, but not every family is like that. Many are like the families @galileogirl described. Food is fuel, and no one cares how you get it into you.

I agree with you, @galileogirl. When I thought about it, I really don’t have an open mind about it. It really does bother me when people all stick their hands in the same bowl, or cough on the food, or wipe their hands on their pants and shirts, or grab food over someone’s shoulder, or ignore people’s requests to pass the platter, etc., etc. It’s about politeness, and kindness for me.

I don’t try to educate anyone except my kids about manners (and my son is quite resistant, as was I, when a boy). I also do not enjoy eating with people who are impolite, so I do tend to try to stay away from them. I think if you wanted to call me a snob about food, you would be fair.

JLeslie's avatar

Daloon is Catholic?

wundayatta's avatar

@JLeslie Small c catholic. As in more open-minded, willing to accept all into the fold.

JLeslie's avatar

@daloon I think most Catholics are like you, I haven’t figured out why the Catholics have not done what the Jews did, Reformed, Conservative and Orthodox.

DominicX's avatar


There is absolutely nothing wrong with children eating on their own and the parents doing their own thing. My family does that the majority of the time and we have no problem with it and we certainly aren’t “not close”; that is something you absolutely cannot deduce from how the family eats.

I might be more economically conservative, but I am pretty damn liberal when it comes to eating.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’m glad I have a world to look forward to that is devoid of ancient ideas of propriety. It’s a young persons world.

JLeslie's avatar

@tinyfaery we were all young once.

DominicX's avatar


I find it funny that the same people who say young people will “grow out of it” and become more conservative as they grow up about propriety are the same people who say “people these days don’t care about propriety!” So, which one is it?

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

@lynneblundell is right, it take only a little bit of background and instruction to see the use of holding/using utensils in ways people think is pretentious. Most etiquette is based on making the most of the simplest actions, not to make something “fancy” or difficult. The placement of knives and forks in particular resting positions for example, keeps them from being easily knocked or bumped.

galileogirl's avatar

@DominicX my point was not about being close to your family, it is that we learn manners by observation and parental correction and lack of table manners indicates a lack of observation and correction.

@JLeslie Catholic and catholic are two different words as daloon pointed out. It is possible to be Lutheran or Jewish or Buddhist or athiest or Muslim and be catholic in their outlook.

Sheesh! Read posts before you respond and occasionally use a dictionary

@daloon That sounds like the person I thought you are. As far as the correction, I’m sure your son is a work in progress who will have fine manners in public. The correcting children’s behavior goes with the territory for teachers.

JLeslie's avatar

@galileogirl I tried to google, but maybe you can enlighten me more on this little c big C? What do you mean you can be basically any religion, but Catholic in ones outlook?

DominicX's avatar


My point was simply that eating together as a family has nothing to do with “proper manners” and such. Furthermore, my parents have taught me certain aspects of table manners (like the napkin on the lap) that I simply don’t follow most of the time.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

@DominicX oh yeah you go, girlfriend!

JLeslie's avatar

@DominicX just curious…why don’t you want to put your napkin in your lap? It wouldn’t bother me either way, but you seem to not want to do it specifically because you are supposed to do it.

Sarcasm's avatar

JLeslie, how often does food fall onto your lap?
I’m like @DominicX, I don’t put a napkin on my lap. Hell, I rarely even use a napkin period. How often have I gotten a stain on my shorts from food? Maybe 3 times in my life.
Okay before somebody dissects “in my life” and asks what I did as a toddler. Let’ say the past 15 years.

galileogirl's avatar

Actually purposely flouting manners tells people more about you than the stain on your lap does.

DominicX's avatar


Just because other people do something, doesn’t mean I have to do it. If you’re going to judge me based on that, so be it. Your loss. At one point, it was considered “proper manners” to hold the door open for women only. I find that sexist. I will hold the door open for anyone, regardless of gender.

Same to @JLeslie. I’m not 13. If I don’t do something it’s not because society wants me to and I’m just not gonna do it because I’m a rebel teenager. I find it more convenient to have it on the table and I never get a stain on my lap. I don’t eat like a pig. It’s not necessary. And as for elbows on the table, I had never even heard that one and I probably don’t do it anyway, but I’m not going to make any conscious effort to not do it. I’d be far more bothered by someone who actually pays attention to little unimportant things like that and judges people based on things like that than someone who puts their elbows on the table. So scandalous!

tinyfaery's avatar

Propriety means nothing. It’s used by control freaks who want everything done to their liking.

galileogirl's avatar

@DominicX I think you are emphasizing my points on this thread. you go ahead and do what you want to but don’t get your nose out of joint if people judge you by your actions and attitude. BTW you don;t have to wait to hear about etiquette. Try this

DominicX's avatar


Of course I’m going to continue to do what I want. I’m not here to be convinced. Frankly, I think judging people on this kind of thing is shallow and I don’t think I would exactly want the companionship of people who would do that. “Ooh…I better check and see if he has a napkin on his lap. If not, there’s going to trouble up in here!” Why would I associate with people who think like that anyway? Nothing I do/don’t do is ostentatious enough for someone to be outright grossed out or offended.

I would certainly never judge someone for something like that and I don’t. Like I said, something that actually is gross to look at (like chewing with your mouth open) is different, but those other things, I wouldn’t judge someone and I probably wouldn’t even notice it if they did it.

Frankly, this reminds me of people who think gay people shouldn’t show that they’re gay in order to please more homophobic people. Why would I want to please those people in the first place?

@tinyfaery I agree on some level. I think some of it is done because some things simply are gross, like chewing with your mouth open or peeing in public or something. But these other things are simply done for the sake of being done and it’s asinine.

tinyfaery's avatar

Hoping Ms. Manners disappears with her generation.

JLeslie's avatar

@DominicX slow down. I said I never judge anyone for not putting their napkin on their lap, I was just asking why you don’t do it. If you tell me you prefer to have it on the table, fine. I think you are assuming I judge all noncompliance with etiquette as something to be judged. I have stated that the fork and knife thing bothers, not that I judge or make any assumptions about that person, and that I myself put my elbows on the table and don’t care if someone puts a napkin on their lap or not. I put mine on my lap in a restaurant, but I might be more likely to wear silk than you, and even a crumb with grease on it is going to be noticeable the rest of the night. On jeans not so much, but I am not trying to assume what you wear. I did say that I think it is better to know the rules and conform in certain situations, but for the most part I am fine with you doing whatever you want especially if the people around you are fine with it. I’m not trying to convince you of anything.

lloydbird's avatar

So glad that at least 1 person got my reference.
Twould be nice to know who though.

industry7's avatar

FYI – catholic (small c) means “universal”. The Catholic church named itself that in order to emphasize that idea their message was for everyone.

josie's avatar

It does not bother me to the extent that I would say anything, or that it disgusts me, but I very definitely render a negative social judgment against people who use poor table manners. I’ve had plenty of first/last dates with women who did not know how to hold a knife and fork. And I am really pretty easy going about every thing else, but for some reason table etiquette matters to me.

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