elbows on the table

Bending the Elbow Rule

Girl with elbows on the table

Even the crudest among us has heard you’re not supposed to put your elbows on the table. In fact, it’s so familiar, there’s even a nursery rhyme about it—and you know you’ve arrived when you have your own nursery rhyme, just like the plague (Ring Around the Rosie) or a homicidal English queen (Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary). It goes:

Mabel, Mabel, strong and able
Get your elbows off the table

This is not a horse's stable

But why?

What Do We Have Against Elbows?

A boy and a girl with elbows on the table

It seems that even the most ill-behaved and uncultured still know that you don’t put your elbows on the table during a meal (even if they don’t follow that rule). But have you ever wondered why? It’s clear why you wouldn’t prop up your feet (they’re smelly and make it difficult to reach the food for all by the most flexible, etc.) but why are elbows a no-go? The truth is there are several truths and we’ll examine a few them.

Reason #1: Poor Furniture