Morals and manners are about more than the basic foundations of a culture. They evolve in response to many stimuli and tend to survive or die as much on the basis of their acceptance by individuals as by the acceptance of governments. The old saying that "You can't regulate morality" is not really true, but under democratic institutions, laws do tend to reflect the underlying moral beliefs of the culture.
Such moral beliefs have tended to be cyclical in the United States during this century. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, Prohibition, was appealed when a horrified populace saw its effects. Yet today, there is once again the same sort of movement brewing with a national 21 year-old drinking age a likely possibility within a few years. Once again government is being asked to step in to save the people from themselves under a variety of guises of which the drinking age is but one -- seat belt laws, a 55 mph speed limit, a slowdown or even reversal of marijuana decriminalization.
Many laws are justified on the basis of moral absolutes. In practice, however, morals are just the will of the majority. Sometimes they reflect part of an underlying tradition or heritage. In most cases, they merely represent the whim of the moment. In this sense, the morals and manners mandated by our culture are simply another form of fashion.
Dum vivimus, vivamus. [While we live, let us live.]
Motto of Krewe of Momus, New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewe
If you remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive
some sinner and wink your eye at a homely girl.
What good are vitamins? Eat four lobsters, eat a pound of caviar
-- live! If you are in love with a beautiful blonde with an empty
face and no brain at all, don't be afraid, marry her -- live!
Drink, and dance and laugh and lie.
Love, the reeling midnight through,
For tomorrow we shall die!
(But, alas, we never do.)
My constitution was destroyed long ago; now I am living under
A philosopher is a fool who torments himself while he is alive,
to be talked of after he is dead.
The only perfect climate is bed.
I don't think pornography is harmful, but it is terribly,
If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will
Sign supposedly in the office of Nixon aide, Charles Colson
The man who first abused his fellows with swear words instead of
bashing their brains out with a club should be counted among
those who laid the foundations of civilization.
He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
Unmentionables -- those articles of ladies' apparrel that are
never discussed in public, except in full-page, illustrated ads.
Beer is not a good cocktail-party drink, especially in a home
where you don't know where the bathroom is.
I found out water can be drunk straight.
Bacchus: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an
excuse for getting drunk.
An alchoholic is someone who drinks too much -- and you don't
Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don't drink too much.
Then again, don't drink too little.
Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen, 104-year-old Canadian cross-country skier
Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot as tax
collectors-- and miss.
I say I don't sleep with married men, but what I really mean is
that I don't sleep with happily married men.
I exercise extreme self-control. I never drink anything stronger
than gin before breakfast.
Debut: the first time a young girl is seen drunk in public.
Drinking more often brings out the best in the good than the
worst in the bad.
Modesty has ruined more kidneys than bad liquor.
Dr. S. Morris
You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.
Brandy-and-water spoils two good things.
An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you
I am a teetotaler because my family has already paid the Shaw
debt to the distilling industry so munificently as to leave me no
George Bernard Shaw
The prohibition law, written for weaklings and derelicts, has
divided the nation, like Gaul, into three parts -- wets, drys,
Mrs. Charles H. Sabin
There are a million boys growing up in the United States who
have never seen a saloon, and who will never know the handicap of
liquor and this excellent condition will go on spreading over the
country when the wet press and the paid propogandists of booze
are forgotten. The abolition of the commercialized liquor trade
in this country is as final as the abolition of slavery.
Henry Ford, 1929
Thirteen states with a population less than that of New York
State alone can prevent repeal [of prohibition] until Halley's
comet returns. One might as well talk about a summer vacation on
A prohibitionist is the sort of man one wouldn't care to drink
with -- even if he drank.
Reality is an illusion induced by alcohol deficiency.
graffito in MIT bathroom
Drunks are very rarely amusing unless they know some good songs
and lose a lot at poker.
One more drink and I'll be under the host.
I don't care what people do as long as they don't do it in the
streets and scare the horses.
Mrs. Patrick Cambell
Obsenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant
I would define morality as enlightened self-interest...That old
Platonic ideal that there are certain pure moral forms just isn't
where we are.
According to you, everything I like to do is either illegal,
immoral or fattening.
The trouble with censors is that they worry if a girl has
cleavage. They ought to worry if she hasn't any.
Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one
of its periodic fits of morality.
Censorship, like charity, should begin at home; but, unlike
charity, it should end there.
Clare Booth Luce
I don't approve of censorship. I like the French theatre idea.
Put on the play, and if the audience doesn't care for it, or
feels offended by it, they rip up the seats.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we
What is morality in any given time and place? It is what the
majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what
Alfred North Whitehead
Morality is the herd-instinct of the individual.
The reason adultery is immoral is that it might lead to
My girlfriend was faithful to the end -- but I was a halfback.
Dartmouth football player
The only thing I have ever been asked [by a pollster] was the
age at which I first indulged in oral sex (which, since it was a
Yale Daily News poll, meant kissing).
He who enjoys a good neighbor, said the Greeks, has a precious
possession. Same goes for neighbour's wife.
She sleeps alone at last.
Robert Benchley, on the death of a promiscuous actress
Love is the answer. But while you're waiting for the answer sex
raises some pretty good questions.
The automobile is technologically more sophisticated than the
bundling board, but the human motives in their uses are sometimes
Charles M. Allen
Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you
The fact is there hasn't been a thrilling new erogenous zone
discovered since de Sade.
I am particularly happy to be able to provide a dormitory on the
Tech campus for women students there. This has been my ambition
for many years, but it had to await the oral contraceptive for
Katherine Dexter McCormick
Europeans used to say Americans were puritanical. Then they
discovered that we are not puritans. So now they say we are
obsessed with sex.
Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
How alike are the groans of love to those of the dying.
What is a promiscuous person -- it's usually someone who is
getting more sex than you are.
Don't solicit for your sister, it's not nice. Unless you get a
good percentage of her price.
A skirt is no obstacle to extemperaneous sex, but it is
physically impossible to make love to a girl while she is wearing
Scientists are still trying to produce life in the laboratory,
but it shouldn't be difficult if the laboratory assistant is
pretty and willing.
Laurence J. Peter
People who throw kisses are mighty hopelessly lazy.
My method is basically the same as Masters and Johnson, only
they charge thousands of dollars and it's called therapy. I
charge fifty dollars and it's called prostitution.
Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys;
it's more sanitary.
Remember that we're fighting for this woman's honor, which is
probably more than she ever did.
Groucho Marx, in Duck Soup
Here lies the body of Mannie,
They put him here to stay;
He lived the life of Riley
While Riley was away.
Here lies the body of poor Aunt Charlotte
Born a virgin, died a harlot;
For sixteen years she kept her virginity,
A damn'd long time in this vicinity.
epitaphs on tombstones in Death Valley
The sanctity of the institution of marriage in the home shall be
upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relations
are the accepted or common thing.
Motion Picture Code, March 31, 1930
Politeness is a pleasant way to get nowhere with a girl.
I've only slept with the men I've been married to. How many
women can make that claim?
I never once went to a prostitute, maybe because there are so
many enthusiastic amateurs around.
The only use for a knife during a shark attack is pure
treachery: Stab your buddy, swim like hell, and hope the munchies
Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure.
Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.
Your idea of fidelity is not having more than one man in bed at
the same time.
Dick Bogarde, in Darling, screenplay by Frederic Raphael
It ain't what a man don't know that makes him a fool, but what
he does know that ain't so.
Do not put off till tomorrow whut can be injoyed today.
Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and
choosing the one that'll get you home earlier.
To mankind in general, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth stand out as the
supreme type of all that a host and a hostess should not be.
You should make a point of trying every experience once, except
incest and folkdancing.
Sir Arnold Bax
The good die young -- because they see it's no use living if
you've got to be good.
I'm as pure as driven slush.
Etiquette is the grease that makes it possible for all of us to
rub together without unnecessary overheating.
People seem to enjoy things a lot more when they know other
people have been left out on the pleasure.
Americans like fat books and thin women.
The best things in life are clean living, good works, and big
saphires. And not in that order.
It is very profitable to hurt people in the right way.
Luxury is an ancient notion. There was once a Chinese mandarin
who had himself awakened three times every morning simply for the
pleasure of being told it was not yet time to get up.
Love at first sight is easy to understand. It's when two people
have been looking at each other for years that it becomes a
Life begins at forty, but so does arthritis, and the habit of
telling the same story three times to the same person.
They say hard work never killed anyone, but why take a chance on
being the first casulty.
If you don't go to other men's funerals, he told Father stiffly,
they won't go to yours.
Why is it we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? Is it
because we are not the person concerned?
The desire to take medicine is perhaps the greatest feature that
distinguishes man from animals.
Sir William Osler
Today it's a 50-50 toss-up as to whether people will stop for a
Robert J. McGuire, NYC police commissioner
Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent
instantly recognizes genius.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Many a man that couldn't direct ye to th' drug store on th'
corner when he was thirty will get a respectful hearin' when age
has further impaired his mind.
Some people are born losers; others acquire the knack gradually.
Some people are so methodical that that is all they are or ever
To die for an idea is to place a pretty high price upon
There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned
for an opinion.
I never hated a man enough to give him diamonds back.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
In the old days, ptomaine poisoning was a cover-all. If you
missed a show and you were young, it meant you were having an
abortion. If you were old, it meant you were having a facelift.
Sometimes I give myself admirable advice, but I am incapable of
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone may be
I am against slavery simply because I dislike slaves.
It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you
know you would lie if you were in his place.
One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral
prejudice of the world than one will be able to go to hell
A mother loves her child more than the father does, because she
knows it's her own, while the father only thinks it's his.
Don't be humble, you're not that great.
Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative.
Kesey had been arrested twice on marijuana possession (which is
rather like citing Auschwitz for a rent-control violation).
D. Keith Mano
Marijuana is like Coors beer. If you could buy the damn stuff at
a Georgia filling station, you'd decide you wouldn't want it.
Anyway, cocaine isn't habit-forming, dahling, and I ought to
know. I've been taking it all my life.
Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.
A fashion ten years before its time is indecent. Ten years after
its time it is hideous. After a century it becomes romantic.
Blue Jeans? They should be worn by farm girls milking cows!
Yves Saint Laurent
I'm tired of all this nonsense about beauty being only skin
deep. What do you want, an adorable pancreas?
A newspaper reported that I spend $30,000 a year buying Paris
clothes and women hate me for it. I couldn't spend that much
unless I wore sable underwear.
You have to have the kind of body that doesn't need a girdle in
order to get to pose in one.
Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes
The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to
Franklin P. Jones
If you're there before it's over, you're on time.
Mayor James J. Walker
When a man knows that he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it
concentrates his mind wonderfully.
Hell, by the time a man scratches his ass, clears his throat,
and tells me how smart he is, we've already wasted fifteen
Lyndon B. Johnson
In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the
It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless of
course you are an exceptionally good liar.
Jerome K. Jerome
Style is when the FBI spends more money on your phone bill than
James Montgomery Band
Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat
Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it is apt to fill a man
with wind and self-righteousness.
Sir Robert Hutchinson
Nothing's as mean as giving a little child something useful on
When some folks agree with my opinions I begin to suspect I'm
If you can't answer a man's argument, all is not lost; you can
still call him vile names.
Genius is the capacity of avoiding hard work.
Any ballplayer that don't sign autographs for little kids ain't
an American. He's a Communist.
Work is the greatest thing in the world. So we should save some
of it for tomorrow.
I love men's clothes, but that doesn't make me a weirdo.
Deep seated preferences cannot be argued about -- you cannot
argue a man into liking a glass of beer.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
The early worm deserves the bird.
Sunburn is very becoming -- but only when it is even -- one must
be careful not to look like a mixed grill.
I have a simple philosophy. Fill what's empty. Empty what's
full. And scratch where it itches.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Never learn to do anything: If you don't learn, you'll always
find someone else who'll do it for you.
When lying, be emphatic and indignant, thus behaving like your
It will kind of take the fun out of playing the lottery.
Vincent Coda, on winning $7.1 million in New York's Lotto
Please give me some good advice in your next letter. I promise
not to follow it.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
The trouble with incest is that it gets you involved with
George S. Kaufman
He bought me so many orchids that I looked like a well-kept
Support the two party system - one party a week is not enough.
If God had wanted fags He would have created Adam and Freddy.
New York City graffito
Never play cards with a man named Doc. Never eat at a place
called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse
than your own.
To smoke a cigar through a mouthpiece is equivalent to kissing a
lady through a respirator.
A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is
exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more could one
The secret of polite conversation is never to open your mouth
unless you have nothing to say.
Don't be troubled if the temptation to give advice is
irresistable; the ability to ignore it is universal.
Conscience gets a lot of credit that belongs to cold feet.
He won't be happy till he gets it.
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My father was broad minded. He couldn't get them off his mind.
What do you mean she doesn't love me? She even answers the phone
when I call!
Possibly man could live twice as long if he didn't spend the
first half of his life acquiring habits that shorten the other
Mary L. Wright
Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the
Frank Lloyd Wright
A hick town is one where there is no place to go where you
The two oldest professions in the world ruined by amateurs.
Alexander Woollcott, referring to prostitution and acting
I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry Martini.
Why don't you get a haircut? You look like a crysanthenum.
She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had
forgotten to say "when."
It was so cold I almost got married.
Platonic love is love from the neck up.
The aim of the liar is simply to charm, to delight, to give
pleasure. He is the very basis of civilized society.
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
I really don't see anything romantic about proposing. It's very
romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a
definite proposal. Why, one might be accepted.
Always forgive your enemies -- nothing annoys them so much.
Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society
holds exactly the same opinions.
The one thing in the world worse than being talked about is not
being talked about.
I can resist everything except temptation.
Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on
earth is the use of them?
Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are
either charming or tedious.
It is easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his
planet; the bylaws are shorter and he is personally acquainted
with the other members.
Is Cinderella "Virtue rewarded" or did she just luck out?
When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I
haven't tried before.
Save a boyfriend for a rainy day -- and another, in case it
A curved line is the loveliest distance between two points.
"Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!"
"Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie."
Of two evils choose the prettier.
There are three intolerable things in life -- cold coffee,
lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.
When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means
he hasn't the slightest intention of putting it into practice.
Heaven for the climate, hell for the society.
I was born modest, but it didn't last.
As a boy, I once saw a cart of melons that sorely tempted me. I
sneaked up to the cart and stole a melon. I went into the alley
to devour it, but no sooner had I set my teeth into it, than I
paused, a strange feeling coming over me. I came to a quick
conclusion. Firmly, I walked up to that cart, replaced the melon
-- and took a ripe one.
Mark Twain, on honesty
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a
She was never really charming until she died.
It is well known that the older a man grows, the faster he could
run as a boy.
Never buy anything with a handle on it. It means work.
H. Allen Smith
There are an awful lot of skinny people in the cemetary.
A great social reformer.
George Bernard Shaw, on Jack the Ripper who specialized in prostitutes
The secret of success is to offend the greatest number of
George Bernard Shaw
Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on
George Bernard Shaw
When you prevent me from doing anything I want to do, that is
persecution; but when I prevent you from doing anything you want
to do, that is law, order and morals.
Geoge Bernard Shaw
In our Victorian dislike of the practice of calling a spade a
bloody shovel, it is not necessary to go to the opposite extreme
of calling it an agricultural implement.
I think she must have been very strictly brought up, she's so
desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly.
The average man's opinions are much less foolish then they would
be if he thought for himself.
If you're going to do something wrong, at least enjoy it.
To offend is my pleasure; I love to be hated.
The granddaughter of the girl who wouldn't show her instep now
shows her step-ins.
Alice Van Rensselaer, on why old-fashioned flirting is extinct
I can always be distracted by love, but eventually I get horny
for my creativity.
People who takes cold baths all winter seldom have colds. But
they have cold baths.
A holiday is time spent among people whose notions of time are
vaguer than yours.
Honesty is not necessarily the best policy. The best policy
would be to acquire a reputation for honesty and then to cheat at
the psychological moment.
William Lyon Phelps
A pessimist is a man who looks both ways before crossing a
Laurence J. Peter
All the troubles of man come from not knowing how to sit still.
I got a coat lined with hampster. You couldn't do that kind of
thing in America. All the Boy Scouts would go on strike.
Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
And where does she find them?
Dorothy Parker, when informed that Clare Boothe Luce was kind to her inferiors
He and I had an office so tiny that an inch smaller it would
have been adultery.
Dorothy Parker, on sharing an office at Vanity Fair with Robert Benchley
In every real man a child is hidden who wants to play.
Baseball is very big with my people. It's the only time you can
get to shake a bat at a white man without starting a riot.
Wouldn't it be a helluva joke if all this were really burnt cork
and you people were being tolerant for nuthin'?
A lot of kids' parents tell them to hang around with people who
are going places -- in other words, don't just hang around
The Daily Dartmouth