chapter  11
13 Pages

MANNERS, WIT AND THE REFORM OF LANGUAGE

By ‘policing of the body’ I mean the norms of personal bodily behaviour studied by Norbert Elias (1978). As Elias shows, from the late sixteenth century onwards, the basic bodily functions, such as eating and excretion, become subject to increasingly stringent regulation, much of which is published in treatises on civility, many aimed at educating parents in how to bring up their children. For instance, people are taught to eat with implements instead of their fingers, and not to use the same implements for transmitting food out of the serving dishes as they are using for putting it in their mouths. Blowing the nose should be discreet, and the handkerchief should be preferred to the fingers. The excretion of urine and faeces is privatised. All of this new self-regulation involves a break with previous norms of behaviour (Elias, 1978:53-160; Magendie, 1925:149-70).