How to Make an Old Fashioned Introduction
(According to Emily Post)

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

I have used the phrase “How do you do?” exactly once in my life. The year was 1989.   I was on a cruise ship, somewhere just shy of  Panama. This particular evening, all guests dining in the formal dining room were introduced to the ship’s Captain. When it was my turn to be introduced to him, for some completely unknown reason, the phrase “How do you do?” popped out of my mouth.

It was as though for a moment I thought I was Gloria Vanderbilt being introduced to the Queen.  On the set of Dynasty.

The only time I remember something equally awkward coming out of my mouth was in grade 9, in the gymnasium of my highschool.  As Duncan MacIntyre sauntered past me …  I said, Greetings.  A word that normally ends with … earth people. Cool.  Super-cool.  Mork cool.

Back to the matter at hand; introductions.  Over the years we’ve become quite casual about introductions.  So casual that I have no idea how to do one.  I can bumble through the introduction of 2 people if I have to, but I’m never sure who I’m supposed to introduce to whom.  I’m not even sure if that’s the proper use of whom.   So I whipped out my trusty 14th Edition of Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette and opened it up to page 1.  THAT is how important giving a proper introductions is; the subject of The Basic Rules of Introductions is covered on the very first page of the book.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

According to Ms. Post, it’s all very easy.  All you have to remember is the fact that introductions are based on who is more important than who.  Or whom.  For instance:

Women always rank above menUnless the man is the President of the United States, the head of another country, a member of a royal family, a church official, or an older man in a high position such as a governor.”.   Translated into today’s society I imagine that would also include any male cast member of Jersey Shore.

An Older Person always ranks above a younger person.  No mention of royalty here by Ms. Post.  For instance, what do you do if you’re introducing an older woman to a young member of royalty?  Oops.  My head just exploded.

A More Important Person always ranks over a Less Important Person.  Emily does mention that this can be tricky sometimes.  For instance a physician would rank over a garbage man.  Unless a garbage strike was going on I imagine.

There are 2 ways to introduce people.  The first involves using the actual phrase  “I’d like to introduce you to …”.   When this phrase is used, the “lower ranked” person is always introduced to the “higher ranked” person.  As in:

Mark, I’d like to introduce you to my good friend Kathy.   Kathy, this is my boyfriend Mark.   (Mark being lower ranked, because he is a man and Kathy is a woman)

Kathy, I’d like to introduce you to author, businesswoman, entrepreneur, star of the runaway hit television show Jersey Shore, Snooki.  Snooki … this is my good friend Kathy.    She also drinks and falls down.  (It’s also helpful after an introduction to mention something the 2 people have in common) In this case both are women, but Snooki is “higher ranked” because she throws up on television.  Better yet, she has people throw up on her, on television.  Honestly. It’s the truth.  Watch Season 1 of Jersey Shore if you don’t believe me.  Emily Post would be mortified by these people.

So when you use the phrase, “introduce you to”,  with “to” as a preposition, the most important person is mentioned last.  Gosh.  Ms. Post was right.  This really is easy.  Oops.  My head just exploded again.

The other way to introduce people is by losing the preposition “to”.  In this case you say the name of the person who is more important first.  As in …

1.  Kathy (highest ranked ’cause she’s a woman) , I’d like you to meet my boyfriend Mark.  Mark … Kathy is my good friend.

2.  Snooki (highest rank ’cause she’s more important), I’d like you to meet my good friend Kathy.  Kathy … Snooki is a reality television star.

Most important to remember is when NOT to introduce people.  As noted by Ms. Emily Post …

So, basically, if you think one person might raise an eyebrow at being introduced to another person … don’t do it.   If you think one person might punch the other person, don’t do it.  If you think one person might throw up on the other person, don’t do it.

I know this all seems confusing.  And it is.  Which is why no one properly introduces anyone to anyone anymore.  This basic downfall of society is also what led us to things like the Jersey Shore and  throwing up on each other as a form of introduction.

I’ll try and simplify things here.  Just remember this, and you’ll be O.K.:

Say the “most important” person’s name first, followed by the “lesser important” person.  Acceptable phrases are “like you to meet”, “have you met”, “do you know”, and the most popular and simplest of them all … a favourite of Ms. Post … “this is”.  As in:

Mr. President (most important because he’s the president), this is Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.

Mr. Soles (most important cause he’s my boss), this is our latest producer, Kim.  (in business situations the ranking of women over men doesn’t apply)

Mom (older and a woman), this is my boss Mr. Soles.  (since my mother doesn’t work with me, she being a woman,  ranks over my boss … the man)

Michelle (older), this is my niece Kiki (younger).

Quick reminder:  If you’re going to use the phrase “I’d like to introduce you to” … the names are reversed, with least important being first and most important being second.  In my opinion, in a society where people get paid to throw up on television, and President’s give fist bumps … we’re probably all O.K. with going with the more casual version of “this is”.

I find a damp rag, some Ajax and a clothing steamer is the best way to clean up an exploded  head.  In case you were wondering.

Thank you to Emily Post for her help.  (Always thanking people is a sign of good etiquette.  Even if their help wasn’t very helpful at all.)  I can’t wait for your thank you’s to start rolling in …


36 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    I read that whole book at the cottage this summer (a really old edition with crazy old-fashioned stuff) and I don’t remember a goddamn thing. I guess I’m just a Neanderthal. However, in my defence, I rarely have the opportunity to practise such skills as proper calling card etiquette, so I’m a bit rusty on that one.

    By the way, I believe it’s, “I’m never sure ‘whom’ I’m supposed to introduce to ‘whom’.” But I don’t know where the hell the quotation marks, comma and period are supposed to go in that last sentence, so I wouldn’t count on me!

  2. Sharon Woo says:

    Thank you! I had a damn good chuckle at you saying Greetings to a cute boy in high school. Man that is dorky!!

  3. Janelle says:

    Q; In business situations the ranking of women over men doesn’t apply, but does the “higher ranked person” rule still apply, regardless of gender? For example, if you’re in a business situation and Sally is a CEO and Biff is the new mail boy, would you introduce Sally to Biff because she is higher ranked, or the other way around because the “women first” rule doesn’t apply in business?

    • Karen says:

      Janelle … it would go like this. Either …

      Sally, this is Biff, our new mail boy. or
      Biff, I’d like to introduce you to Sally, the president of the company. (because you are using the preposition “to”, the most important person comes second)

      Women rank over men in all situations, except business where they are equal. In a business situation, rank would also overrule age. So if Biff is older than Sally, in a social situation the introduction would be reversed. In a business situation, even if Biff is older, Sally still ranks higher as the boss. Phew.

  4. Amie says:

    Ha! Love it. Did the Captain say ‘How do you do’ back to you? It’s considered very rude to actually answer the question.

  5. Jacque says:

    Karen,

    Thank you for the wonderful etiquette lesson today. I had the pleasure of observing this lesson from my living room over a cup of tea and slice of whole wheat toast, butter and jelly.

    With warmest regards,
    That one girl

  6. Jan says:

    This reminds me of a funny story: My father opened our front door and greeted his work associate. Since my brother was only four, he said, “Heinz, I’d like you to meet my son Craig” whereby Craig promptly kicked him in the shin. Being a well-bred gentleman himself, Heinz replied, “That’s ok, son, I have another leg.” Craig then kicked him in the other shin! Lesson: Sometimes even the best of manners can’t help a situation!

  7. marilyn says:

    and i do thank you karen because as you know good manners never go out of style!

  8. Amy Schmucker says:

    IF I wasn’t confused before, I am completely baffled now. By the way, “Hi, I am Amy. I love reading your stuff that you do.” I always introduce myself because Americans are just rude and never RSVP or Introduce people. I would love a post on RSVP because NO one does it and it means “Please respond, thank you so much.” However it should mean “If you can’t come please call me and let me know or I shall hunt you down and throttle you.”
    Just my opinion.

    • Kate says:

      Perfect timing of this conversation…in making bday party invitations for my daughter’s upcoming party, she looked at the “Kindly RSVP” part and asked what it meant. I told her and she said, “well, shouldn’t you just write that on there, so the will know what it means” and I told her that all moms know what it means. She didn’t believe me…and I fear she may be correct!

      Manners never do go out of style and I am so glad to see them being talked about again.

      I really appreciate the refresher on the introductions because we just moved to a new state and have been doing a lot of that these past few months.

  9. Korrine says:

    Wow. Can we get some sort of a table or chart explaining who is more important than whom(?)? And…thank you!

  10. Kelly says:

    I always enjoy your blog but don’t often comment. However, I can’t pass up the opportunity to comment on the Jersey Shore reference. OMG. Just to show I am cool with two teenage daughters. I have certainly had moments of feeling completely out of touch with current teenage culture but for the most part I get it. But that show is the most ludicrous thing I have seen. Honestly, how can people think that is an intelligent way to behave. Do I sound like a middle aged mother? If the Martians were watching Jersey Shore they wouldn’t even think of coming back to look further for signs of intelligent life. Anyway, thanks Karen for a totally enjoyable blog.

  11. sharon says:

    Isn`t Jersey Shore the guy that plays the piano in some lounge in El Segundo?

    • Karen says:

      Sharon – I have no idea if you’re kidding or not so I’ve supplied you with this … Jersey Shore Trailer. A very small look at the guys and gals from The Jersey Shore. ~ karen!

  12. Amy says:

    My favorite introduction greeting is the only line I remember from “White Christmas” (Besides the Sisters song): “Mutual, I’m sure”–with an exaggerated drawl.

    The best part about it is that that character uses it in response to any introduction, even when the person she just met asks “How do you do?” and does not say “Nice to meet you.”

  13. mary says:

    I always want to say “How do I do what?” when asked How do you do… I’m sure that’s not right, though; thank goodness I had the introductions hierarchy figured out… I do need the “to” in there though to keep it all straight.

  14. Julie shinnick says:

    *BOOOM*

  15. Tina says:

    Karen, thank you for confusing the crap out of me. Now I will never introduce anyone to anyone else………it’s easier that way.

  16. Brenda says:

    Karen, thanks for including that you should share a tidbit that the two newly acquainted have in common. Sometimes people need that little springboard to start conversation with a new friend. We’re not always out to solve the problems of the world, people…let’s get back to some good old-fashioned chit chat and get our noses out of our IPhones.
    THERE!!! I said it!!
    Happy Monday, and have a great week!
    Brenda

  17. Alexandra says:

    So before I read the rest of your post, I had to chime in with my own awkward word vomit story. We were playing BrainQuest once in the 7th grade, and the teacher asked for the shortened version of the word “condominium.” I instantly raised my hand and shouted “condom.” Hmm. That doesn’t sound right. Everyone around me burst into laughter and I had to think about it for a good long minute before I realized that the shortened version of condominium is actually “condo.” A condom is a different thing entirely.

    I did get a piece of candy for embarrassment.

    Now on to read the rest of your post.

    Okay, how about I just point to one and then the other, and then just let them work it out between themselves. I think I need to write a new etiquette book for people (like me) with a bad memory who are bound to screw things (like introductions) up very badly.

    THANK YOU, KAREN!!!!!! 😀

  18. Denise says:

    Is there a chapter in the book on remembering the name of the person you are introducing to or if there is more than one person and you don’t know everyone…happend to me! I agree with Tina, I let someone do it! I have to pick and choose my head explosions.

  19. Carol says:

    I won’t even ask what the modern day etiquette is for introducing couples, that’s when my head explodes.

  20. Ana says:

    I go the Bridget Jones route and introduce people by telling them a small fact about the other. As in:

    “Joe, this is Karen. She just recently took up smoking. Karen, Joe is an ardent believer in the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.”

  21. Stephen says:

    There was an Avengers episode where a very British assassin wouldn’t kill someone (probably with a tightly rolled umbrella) until they’d been properly introduced.

  22. Sherry says:

    Thanks Karen, this was fun… I love Bridgette Jones Diary version of the introduction – always make me laugh
    I would also like to know the etiquette on introducing x’s – you know like at weddings – like my daughter’s wedding coming up next year… ugh! She’s worried I’ll make a fool of myself, but I say, just don’t invite them :), I’m a woman and by far the most important!

  23. Bonnie says:

    Karen,

    Two things about introductions:
    1. My problem is not the formality. My problem is that as soon as I start to introduce people, I experience a mental block and forget their names. Even if they are people I have known for a long time! Like, “I’d like to introduce you to my sister,___________.” Awkward! There must be a name for this disorder.
    2. Just so you know, if ever we are in a room together with anyone cast member of the Jersey Shore, I do not want to be introduced. And, I am feel that they would feel “Mutual, I’m sure.”

  24. Bre says:

    I think I shall make a point of asking “How do you do?” at the next opportunity. And I shall enunciate. If I can remember. And should I be asked that same question, is it rude to answer with, “Charmed, I’m sure” or even better, “Enchantée”? If I can remember.

  25. I appreciate reading your site. Thanks!|

  26. roy says:

    Can we perhaps, make this a lot easier by following a General Rule, that Women ALWAYS rank higher than men, business or otherwise? I think this should be ‘the rule’ not just in conversation but also in any situation. For instance man should open door for a Lady, draw chairs for her, listen very patiently her views (even if they are wrong), have conversation in a pleasing manner so that it gravitates about her interests and desires. In presence of Wife, always rank her the Highest, no matter, who is sitting next in the row, can be any man, president or high official. Only exception to this rule would be for mother,sister,cousins or any female relative for that matter.

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