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.
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 men “Unless 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 …