Social Question

mangeons's avatar

Why is putting your elbows on the table considered rude?

Asked by mangeons (12198points) February 15th, 2010

It’s not as prevalent in society these days, but still in some places, and in the past, putting your elbows on the table is considered rude. How did this tradition start, and where did it originate?

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21 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Because I said so!

Oxymoron's avatar

I have no idea. I personally don’t think it’s that rude unless it’s really obvious and you’re leaning your head on your hands. Ha ha.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

It’s a fine dining etiquette thing. Elbows on the table is considered poor posture.
It’s a bit of a nitpicky thing IMO.

I’m not big on those things so elbows on the table is fine at my house. If you want, you can even put a milk carton on the table and eat your peas with a knife.

BoBo1946's avatar

Creates a risk of tipping over the table…and oh my gosh, some cook would be very upset!!!

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

My Dad enforces this rule with an iron fist, and it drives me insane.

nebule's avatar

because back in the medieval days they didn’t have proper legs and it would tip over if you leant on it… nothing to do with manners….

DominicX's avatar

I don’t know and I just don’t care.

I can guess that it has to do with the fact that sitting up perfectly straight with your back fully against the chair is considered the “proper” way to sit.

This “rule” has nothing to do with offending other people or being gross (such as talking with your mouth full), is has nothing to do with cleanliness (even though I don’t follow the napkin on the lap rule, that one at least makes sense). To me, this one is pure asininity.

Berserker's avatar

I think it might stem from some religion thing. Not sure at all actually, but I wouldn’t doubt it.
I don’t see anything wrong with it, if there’s enough place to do it. No problem. Might have to do with posture that, in the long run, can give you spine cancer or something. I denno.

I don’t think much of it, since I was raised by eating dinner on a coffee table while watching TV haha. When there was something to even have for dinner that wasn’t popsicles or pasta noodles with ketchup.

marinelife's avatar

The Wiki says”

“Many table manners evolved out of practicality. For example, it is generally impolite to put elbows on tables, since doing so creates a risk of tipping over bowls and cups.”

mangeons's avatar

@DominicX Most people I know, if not all of them, chew with their mouths full. ;)

DominicX's avatar


Okay, that does make some sense. I hate it slightly less now. But honestly, I’ve never seen anyone tip over bows or cups on a table (other than little kids) and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten at a table with people. The last time I can remember was someone reaching over to grab something and they knocked over a tall glass, so it had nothing to do with elbows on the table.


TALK lol. I suck. :)

mangeons's avatar

@DominicX How many times have you eaten a table with people? This is a custom I am not familiar with. Are you eating the table and the people, or are the people eating the table with you?

DominicX's avatar


That reminds me of Latin class when these two guys in my class had a hard time translating their passage because it came out literally as “mensas devoraverunt” meaning “they devoured the tables”.

People should know by now that have a habit leaving out words.

(That last sentence was purposely worded that way, mind you).

SeventhSense's avatar

Because I said so…don’t make me call your father..


Because your Daddy said so, and his Daddy said so, and so on, and so on, and so on. Lol.

Val123's avatar

It’s just kind of sloppy. I mean, think about somebody eating with both elbows on the table. Don’t they look rather ogreish?

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s not observed in my home.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t know where it originated,but some people look like Captain Caveman when they do this.HOTTT! ;)

mollypop51797's avatar

Maybe because it’s like using the table as your armrest. A place to rest your arms when you’re eating a hotdog, or sandwich. A place for you to just plop your elbows on since you can’t neatly prop you forearms instead. Or a place meant for your elbows, not your dinner plate, I don’t know, I don’t have anything against it, but at formal restaurants, I would be aware so I don’t look sloppy.

jca's avatar

i think it’s because if you’re sitting at a dining table next to someone who has their elbows on the table, they are not as accessible for talking to as they would be if they sat up straight. also when you have your elbows on the table you hover over the food, whereas you’re supposed to sit up straight and bring the food to your mouth.

Sophief's avatar

I wasn’t allowed to that as I child, and so I don’t do it now.

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