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In praise of (occasional) bad manners

Politeness is often the veneer that disguises our most barbaric instincts—as a look to the past reminds us

By Freya Johnston   July 2018

Rude awakening: polished diners ignore the rowdy lower- classes in a 15th-century Flemish illustration. Photo: J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES, USA / BRIDGEMAN IMAGES

“Never park here,” thunders a sign attached to the railings of one Oxford college. As such communications go, this one has plenty to recommend it—but alas its brevity is far from typical. In recent years there has been a surge in the number of English signs identifying themselves as a “Polite Notice.” These two six-letter words often herald a long message that errs in every…

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