Morals and Manners

The morals and manners of a culture can tell a great deal about the concept of freedom in that culture. Repressive regimes proscribe many types of behavior and closely regulate the rest. More liberal (in the old sense of the word) governments and cultures are more likely to adopt Mrs. Patrick Cambell's maxim: "I don't care what people do as long as they don't do it in the streets and scare the horses."

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.

I was supposed to promise not to swear, drink, or smoke. I just told Dean Emerson "I can't accept on those terms."
Ernest Martin Hopkins, former president of Dartmouth College on the conditions for his accepting a scholarship when an undergraduate

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.
H.L. Mencken

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!
Arthur Rubinstein

Drink, and dance and laugh and lie. Love, the reeling midnight through, For tomorrow we shall die! (But, alas, we never do.)
Dorothy Parker

My constitution was destroyed long ago; now I am living under the bylaws.
Clarence Darrow

A philosopher is a fool who torments himself while he is alive, to be talked of after he is dead.
Jean D'Alembert

The only perfect climate is bed.
Frank Crowninshield

I don't think pornography is harmful, but it is terribly, terribly boring.
Noel Coward

If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.
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.
John Cohen

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
Winston Churchill

Unmentionables -- those articles of ladies' apparrel that are never discussed in public, except in full-page, illustrated ads.
Changing Times

Beer is not a good cocktail-party drink, especially in a home where you don't know where the bathroom is.
Billy Carter

I found out water can be drunk straight.
Billy Carter

Bacchus: A convenient deity invented by the ancients as an excuse for getting drunk.
Ambrose Bierce

An alchoholic is someone who drinks too much -- and you don't like anyway.

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.
Robert Heinlein

I say I don't sleep with married men, but what I really mean is that I don't sleep with happily married men.
Britt Ekland

I exercise extreme self-control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.
W.C. Fields

Debut: the first time a young girl is seen drunk in public.
F.Scott Fitzgerald

Drinking more often brings out the best in the good than the worst in the bad.
Malcolm Forbes

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.
Dean Martin

Brandy-and-water spoils two good things.
Charles Lamb

An alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks as much as you do.
Dylan Thomas

I am a teetotaler because my family has already paid the Shaw debt to the distilling industry so munificently as to leave me no further obligation.
George Bernard Shaw

The prohibition law, written for weaklings and derelicts, has divided the nation, like Gaul, into three parts -- wets, drys, and hypocrites.
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 Mars.
Clarence Darrow

A prohibitionist is the sort of man one wouldn't care to drink with -- even if he drank.
H.L. Mencken

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.
Karyl Roosevelt

One more drink and I'll be under the host.
Dorothy Parker

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 magistrate.
Bertrand Russell

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.
Andrew Young

According to you, everything I like to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening.
W.C. Fields

The trouble with censors is that they worry if a girl has cleavage. They ought to worry if she hasn't any.
Marilyn Monroe

Immorality: the morality of those who are having a better time.
H.L. Mencken

We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality.
Lord Macaulay

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.
John Huston

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike.
Oscar Wilde

What is morality in any given time and place? It is what the majority then and there happen to like and immorality is what they dislike.
Alfred North Whitehead

Morality is the herd-instinct of the individual.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The reason adultery is immoral is that it might lead to marriage.
Friedrich Nietzsche

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).
Paul Rudnick

He who enjoys a good neighbor, said the Greeks, has a precious possession. Same goes for neighbour's wife.
Nicholas Bentley

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.
Woody Allen

The automobile is technologically more sophisticated than the bundling board, but the human motives in their uses are sometimes the same.
Charles M. Allen

Sex is hereditary. If your parents never had it, chances are you won't either.
Joseph Fischer

The fact is there hasn't been a thrilling new erogenous zone discovered since de Sade.
George Gilder

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 birth control.
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.
Mary McCarthy

Whoever called it necking was a poor judge of anatomy.
Groucho Marx

How alike are the groans of love to those of the dying.
Malcolm Lowry

What is a promiscuous person -- it's usually someone who is getting more sex than you are.
Victor Lownes

Don't solicit for your sister, it's not nice. Unless you get a good percentage of her price.
Tom Lehrer

A skirt is no obstacle to extemperaneous sex, but it is physically impossible to make love to a girl while she is wearing trousers.
Helen Lawrenson

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.
Bob Hope

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.
Xaviera Hollander

Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys; it's more sanitary.
Robert Heinlein

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?
Elizabeth Taylor

I never once went to a prostitute, maybe because there are so many enthusiastic amateurs around.
A.S. Neill

The only use for a knife during a shark attack is pure treachery: Stab your buddy, swim like hell, and hope the munchies take him.
Tim Cahill

Pleasure's a sin, and sometimes sin's a pleasure.
Lord Byron

Bad taste is simply saying the truth before it should be said.
Mel Brooks

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.
Josh Billings

Do not put off till tomorrow whut can be injoyed today.
Josh Billings

Middle age is having a choice between two temptations and choosing the one that'll get you home earlier.
Dan Bennett

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.
Max Beerbohm

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.
John Barrymore

I'm as pure as driven slush.
Tallulah Bankhead

Etiquette is the grease that makes it possible for all of us to rub together without unnecessary overheating.
Russell Baker

People seem to enjoy things a lot more when they know other people have been left out on the pleasure.
Russell Baker

Americans like fat books and thin women.
Russell Baker

The best things in life are clean living, good works, and big saphires. And not in that order.
Lauren Bacall

It is very profitable to hurt people in the right way.
Prof. Sinnott-Armstrong

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 miracle.
Sam Levenson

Life begins at forty, but so does arthritis, and the habit of telling the same story three times to the same person.
Sam Levenson

They say hard work never killed anyone, but why take a chance on being the first casulty.
Sam Levenson

If you don't go to other men's funerals, he told Father stiffly, they won't go to yours.
Clarence Day

Why is it we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? Is it because we are not the person concerned?
Mark Twain

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 red light.
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.
Finley Dunne

Some people are born losers; others acquire the knack gradually.
W.C. Fields

Some people are so methodical that that is all they are or ever will be.
B.C. Forbes

To die for an idea is to place a pretty high price upon conjecture.
Anatole France

There is a certain impertinence in allowing oneself to be burned for an opinion.
Anatole France

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.
Ruth Gordon

Sometimes I give myself admirable advice, but I am incapable of taking it.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking.
H.L. Mencken

I am against slavery simply because I dislike slaves.
H.L. Mencken

It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know you would lie if you were in his place.
H.L. Mencken

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 without perspiring.
H.L. Mencken

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.
Golda Meir

Good taste is the first refuge of the non-creative.
Marshall McLuhan

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.
Billy Carter

Anyway, cocaine isn't habit-forming, dahling, and I ought to know. I've been taking it all my life.
Tallulah Bankhead

Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle drugs.
Lily Tomlin

A fashion ten years before its time is indecent. Ten years after its time it is hideous. After a century it becomes romantic.
James Laver

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?
Jean Kerr

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.
Jacqueline Kennedy

You have to have the kind of body that doesn't need a girdle in order to get to pose in one.
Carolyn Kenmore

Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.
Keeney Jones

The trouble with being punctual is that nobody's there to appreciate it.
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.
Samuel Johnson

Hell, by the time a man scratches his ass, clears his throat, and tells me how smart he is, we've already wasted fifteen minutes.
Lyndon B. Johnson

In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the important thing.
Oscar Wilde

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 you do.
James Montgomery Band

Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.
Jackie Mason

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 Christmas.
Kin Hubbard

When some folks agree with my opinions I begin to suspect I'm wrong.
Kin Hubbard

If you can't answer a man's argument, all is not lost; you can still call him vile names.
Elbert Hubbard

Genius is the capacity of avoiding hard work.
Elbert Hubbard

Any ballplayer that don't sign autographs for little kids ain't an American. He's a Communist.
Rogers Hornsby

Work is the greatest thing in the world. So we should save some of it for tomorrow.
Don Herold

I love men's clothes, but that doesn't make me a weirdo.
Margaux Hemmingway

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.
Robert Heinlein

Sunburn is very becoming -- but only when it is even -- one must be careful not to look like a mixed grill.
Noel Coward

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.
Mark Twain

When lying, be emphatic and indignant, thus behaving like your children.
William Feather

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 relatives.
George S. Kaufman

He bought me so many orchids that I looked like a well-kept grave.
Texas Guinan

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 want?
Oscar Wilde

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.
Advertisement for Pears' Soap

My father was broad minded. He couldn't get them off his mind.
country song

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 half.
Mary L. Wright

Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.
Frank Lloyd Wright

A hick town is one where there is no place to go where you shouldn't go.
Alexander Woollcott

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.
Alexander Woollcott

Why don't you get a haircut? You look like a crysanthenum.
P.G. Wodehouse

She looked as if she had been poured into her clothes and had forgotten to say "when."
P.G. Wodehouse

It was so cold I almost got married.
Shelley Winters

Platonic love is love from the neck up.
Thyra Winslow

The aim of the liar is simply to charm, to delight, to give pleasure. He is the very basis of civilized society.
Oscar Wilde

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Oscar Wilde

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.
Oscar Wilde

Always forgive your enemies -- nothing annoys them so much.
Oscar Wilde

Arguments are extremely vulgar, for everyone in good society holds exactly the same opinions.
Oscar Wilde

The one thing in the world worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
Oscar Wilde

I can resist everything except temptation.
Oscar Wilde

Really, if the lower orders don't set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?
Oscar Wilde

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
Oscar Wilde

It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious.
Oscar Wilde

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.
E.B. White

Is Cinderella "Virtue rewarded" or did she just luck out?
Diane White

When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I haven't tried before.
Mae West

Save a boyfriend for a rainy day -- and another, in case it doesn't rain.
Mae West

A curved line is the loveliest distance between two points.
Mae West

"Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!" "Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie."
Mae West

Of two evils choose the prettier.
Carolyn Wells

There are three intolerable things in life -- cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.
Oscar Welles

When a man says he approves of something in principle, it means he hasn't the slightest intention of putting it into practice.
Otto Bismark

Heaven for the climate, hell for the society.
Mark Twain

I was born modest, but it didn't last.
Mark Twain

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 good example.
Mark Twain

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.
Red Smith

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.
Beverly Sills

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 people.
George Bernard Shaw

Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.
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.
Robert Seton-Watson

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.
Bertrand Russell

If you're going to do something wrong, at least enjoy it.
Leo Rosten

To offend is my pleasure; I love to be hated.
Edmond Rostand

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.
Gilda Radner

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.
J.B. Priestly

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 one-way street.
Laurence J. Peter

All the troubles of man come from not knowing how to sit still.
Blaise Pascal

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.
Suzy Parker

Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
Dorothy Parker

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.
Friedrich Nietzsche

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.
Dick Gregory

Wouldn't it be a helluva joke if all this were really burnt cork and you people were being tolerant for nuthin'?
Dick Gregory

A lot of kids' parents tell them to hang around with people who are going places -- in other words, don't just hang around blacks.
The Daily Dartmouth

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