Ticket to Ride

I was recently discussing the etymology of certain words with a French friend. We bounced back and forth between the English meaning I wanted to express and searched for the French word that most accurately communicated it.

We discussed the concept of doing what was ‘right’, and then discussed the distinctions–and translations–for what was ‘correct’, ‘legal’, ‘ethical’, and ‘fair.’ ‘Right’ quickly came to be a broad, vague term under the microscope of an educated Frenchmen’s mind.

Then, the word ‘etiquette’ came up in the conversation. I learned that the word originally referred to a tag that was attached to a piece of luggage or a package in order to identify who it belonged to. Literally, a ‘ticket’, which it sounds a little like.

Today, our word ‘ticket’ often refers to a document that allows one entry into an event or passage onto a boat, train, or airplane. (Law enforcement citations as well, but that’s another post…)

How appropriate, I thought to myself: etiquette is still your ticket.

If you learn it–and practice its offspring, manners–you will be allowed into more places than you would be without it. You will be able to go farther with it in your possession than you would without it. And it will still identify you as the person who possesses it, as did the ‘ticket’ that was affixed to luggage and parcels so many years ago.

So, as much as the meaning of words change over time, they often still remain surprisingly the same, if we’ll just take a moment to think about them.

  • BGT

10 thoughts on “Ticket to Ride

  1. Thank you for this persepective on how useful etiquette and manners are. I never thought about the connection between ticket and etiquette. However, you explain it nicely.

    Etiquette is lacking nowadays. Whether at events or on social media. Etiquette will never go out of style. In any situation.

    Have a great rest of your week everyone!

  2. A most interesting post that is not only entertaining to read but thought-provoking as well! Inevitably I feel that life is intriguing after having read your latest article. Kudos to you, Byron, on your enlightening website.

  3. Hello Byron,

    An interesting topic. Was it the [Old Money Book] that quoted the saying “etiquette is for people who do not have manners ” (?) Perhaps I read it elsewhere. I seem to recall that etiquette is the more technical aspect of behavior and one would be forgiven for using the wrong piece of cutlery if one had manners. However, there would be no second invitation if one knew all the technical parts but had no manners and decency.

    Here’s one we use at work and a mental puzzle for a Frenchman, and I might add, many native English speakers:
    ” Do not do what you think is right. Do the Right Thing “. If one applies this before any action it will at a minimum make one think (twice), before acting.

    Greetings from this side of the pond.


    1. Thanks, David. Love the quote: “Do not do what you think is right. Do the right thing.” The etiquette/manners quote is from someone else, maybe Oscar Wilde…? See you soon… – BGT

  4. My grandmother gave me my first etiquette lesson as a young child. Etiquette equals respectfulness to all, whether you agree or disagree with them. If she were alive now she would have loved your post.

  5. With my limited notion of French I would prefer the word “courtoisie”, rather than “etiquette”. Perhaps the distinction is subtle. I might be wrong, but I’d say that, for mastering “courtoisie” one needs to practice the “etiquette”. The former being a broader personal quality (e.g.: a courteous man), the latter referring to practical rules and skills. I’d also associate “courtoisie” with art-de-vivre. It’s more than etiquette. There is “l’École de la Courtoisie” in Paris, a quite fitting use of the word.

    As for “right” or “righteous”, the French translation “droit” seems appropriate. I’ve heard the expression “droit et en avant”, “righteous and ahead(?)”. This seems to have originated from an expression by general Alexis L’Hotte, instructor of the Cadre Noir, elite instructors at the French military riding academy: “calme, en avant et droit”.

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