Talk:Eating utensil etiquette

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Food and drink (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Food and drink, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of food and drink related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
Checklist icon
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

Great article[edit]

To the author: Great article. :-) That's what I like about Wikipedia: these little pieces of culture and cultural differences that you won't find documented elsewhere. Simon A. 19:21, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)

If only someone had told me these differences existed before I married my American wife (I'm from the UK).... The only real comment I have is that the zig zag method must be better for you, since the switching, putting down, swapping etc between each bit must slow the eater and improve digestion. Jonathan from England. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:48, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Zigzag method[edit]

Wonderful article. Who coined the term "zigzag"?

I think this manner of eating is also done here in Canada as well. At least, I do something that approximates this, though my table manners are not exactly perfect. :) Can any other Canadians corroborate? --Saforrest 19:47, Sep 9, 2004 (UTC)

Well, I'm Canadian, but I don't put the utensils down, I just eat with my fork in the left hand (and impale the food, not scoop it). Otherwise I might cut up a piece of meat into little pieces and eat with my right hand, not using the left at all (I did that as a kid, at least). Adam Bishop 19:52, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I, too, am Canadian, and I believe I typically eat the same way as Adam Bishop. If I do eat using the zigzag method, I think that I only make one cut at a time, not several. --Timc 03:37, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I have noticed that a lot of "zig zag" eaters eat with hats on backward at the table and talk in grunts and monosyllables. Is this also socially significant?????

If you wish to make a comment of that sort, you can at least identify yourself. Nobody here is saying that those who don't use the zig-zag method have any negative European stereotype. BirdValiant 21:38, 20 April 2006 (UTC)

In England, it is also more common to hold the fork "upside down" and push the food onto the prongs of fork with the knife.

Eating technique varies with the thing being eaten. Some foods are more scoopable than stabbable. I never knew there was a technical term for this eating method though! Paul Tracy

It's been interesting coming to live in Canada from the UK. People say that eating the European way instead of 'zigzagging' actually is a more efficient way of eating, and also looks better. I am having considerable difficulty getting my 9 y o daughter to eat the 'correct' way.

The Miss Manners book Basic Training: Eating describes something similar to this article's zig-zag method as the standard American style, but says it isn't proper to cut more than one piece of food at once.--Trystan 00:25, 20 April 2006 (UTC)
Now that would be inefficient. If I need to eat something that requires the need of a knife, like a steak or pork chop or something, I usually cut a narrow strip of the meat, and cut that up into four or five pieces, then proceed to put down the knife. Or I could cut up those pieces and keep the knife in the hand, eating with the left, or I could cut one at a time. Whatever I feel like. But cutting one small piece and then setting the knife down would be and look ridiculous, and I think, less proper. BirdValiant 21:38, 20 April 2006 (UTC)
In the words of Miss Manners, it is a "foolish notion to think that the rules of etiquette are intended to be either logical or efficient." The article should reflect what etiquette authorities say is proper, not what seems like the fastest way to eat. If there are conflicting authorities they should probably all be cited, but I only have to access to the one.--Trystan 21:51, 20 April 2006 (UTC)
I'm just saying that I'm not going to cut and eat the pieces one by one just because of some crappy etiquette rule. Not that I don't conform to other etiquette rules. Just my personal opinion. BirdValiant 01:26, 21 April 2006 (UTC)

Zigzag method in Poland considered unpolite[edit]

While I of course can not speak for every Pole here, but I'd like to point out that zigzag method is considered unpolite here in Poland. Zigzag method is permitted for very young children or in very non-formal circumtances. Przepla 18:30, 13 Mar 2005 (UTC)

As "another" Pole, I can only confirm that, and I believe I am speaking for the vast majority of Poles. Eating anyhow else than employing the "European style" is considered absolutely boorish. I would have never thought anybody would consider eating using this "Zigzag method" in any circustances rather than very informal... I must have met only the most cultured Americans in my life... Bravada, talk - 01:52, 7 October 2006 (UTC)
I am not a Pole, I am from Scotland, but I recognise the sentiment here. Anything other than what is being described as 'European style' is regarded in the UK as demonstating a distinct lack of manners and a bad upbringing. The fork should never be used as shovel, regardless of the fact that it would sometimes be convenient to do so (peas being the most obvious example).

I'm not a Pole or a Scot. I'm an American. My understanding of the above, is that Europeans (especially Poles and Scots) in the US eating in their customary manner (European Style) would be showing good manners and good upbringing. Any Americans at their table or any surrounding tables, mind you this is in the US, eating in their customary manner(American Method) would be *demonstrating a distinct lack of manners and a bad upbringing*. What drivel. BTW The Poles showed up two(2) weeks late for the US Bicentennial in 1976. Bad manners or just being Polish? Puts one in mind of the Polish Mine Detector. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

However, I would be interested to hear what people thought about eating foreign cuisine. When eating curry, for example, is it okay to only use a fork, to keep it in your right hand, and to use it as a shovel?Ewan carmichael 15:50, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

In India you eat with the right hand, touching the food with the tips of your fingers only. It is very rude to use the left hand when eating (because you are supposed to wash your ass with the left hand, not to use toilet paper). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Georgius (talkcontribs) 14:13, 19 April 2010 (UTC)

Prevalence in America[edit]

Do Americans generally eat like this? I seems like a lot of work, changing hands constantly? - Matthew238 03:13, 4 November 2005 (UTC)

Yes they do. I've personally been doing it since I was a kid, and I'm from Australia.--Gene_poole 05:57, 4 November 2005 (UTC)
However, the food is not always eaten afterwards in a 'spoon-like manner'; it may also be impaled. Personally, I find myself eating with both methods, with fork in right hand and left hand somewhere else, and with the fork in left hand and knife in right. However, I don't use the 'hidden handle' method, although it may be temporarily in that position while cutting with the knife. I also cut the the food with the side of the fork (with left hand somewhere else) if the food is thin or tender enough to be cut without the aide of a knife. I'm from Wisconsin. BirdValiant 23:24, 19 April 2006 (UTC)
I've always been taught that it's extremely rude to cut off more than one piece of meat then switch hands, as is using a knife to help shovel food onto a fork. And while the fork is held in a "spoon like manner" in the other hand, I've -never- seen anybody try to scoop up a piece of meat.
On the other hand, I'd like to know how people eating in the continental style eat none-hard objects, like potatoes, corn, peas, etc. Do you stab individual kernels? 22:40, 21 April 2007 (UTC)
I've been living in America all my life, and I've never seen anyone change hands when they eat. Ever. So I'm wondering where people who eat like that live, because it sure isn't where I do. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 20:25, 11 May 2007 (UTC).
I'm not sure if you are young or not, but I am in my late 30s and almost all of my friends ate ZigZag style and were raised by very proper upper middle class parents. Similar to the Polish folks above, eating continental style would have be seen by my parents as very boorish. However, now the world is much more global - you find dizzy teenage girls using british spellings because they have been texting penpals in the UK - they have no idea where the UK is of course. Similarly, some baby boomers have started to teach their kids how to eat continental style because they think it is cool. Tradition is not sacred here. So maybe you and your friends have baby boomer parents? Cshay (talk) 06:45, 28 May 2008 (UTC)
I have never eaten like this. I cut up all my food before I start eating, so that I may shovel food into my mouth uninterupted. I take it you people are rich snobs? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:26, 9 March 2010 (UTC)
One does not need to be rich nor a snob to have good manners. I take it you don't. (talk) 16:01, 4 February 2012 (UTC)

This discussion, while interesting, is not particularly useful: A verifiable reference giving percentages of European v. American utensil-handling styles in the States would be much more helpful. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:19, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

peas with honey[edit]

As a (British) child I had to ask at table if I may turn my fork over in order to scoop up food. This request was usually granted, albeit grudgingly. We were reminded of how "common" people ate (pronounced "et" in those days) by the rhyme: He eats his peas with honey He´s done it all his life It makes the peas taste funny But it keeps them on his knife.

I want to ask the question, "How does a proper Brit eat peas?" Do I recall correctly that it is with what we Americans would call a butter knife? If so, what do you call this knife? I assume it is not the same knife that one uses for cutting steak? Doesn't it seem inefficient? On another note, I've tried to eat, keeping the fork in my left hand. It feels very unnatural to me as I am not used to it. The fork-switching is used only in the most proper setting. With family or friends we don't typically bother. The fork switching is quite tiresome. Of course there are families that insist on their children doing the fork switching thing; to eat that way every time. It just depends on what people prefer. But it, or the European method should be followed when eating with someone of importance (That is, in the U.S.)Scot.parker 22:00, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

To answer your question about Brits eating peas. Mashed Potatoes are ubiquitous with their meals. Put some mash on your fork, dip it in the peas witch stick to the mash then eat. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:21, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

The British method of eating does indeed require smashing the food to the convex tines so that it sticks. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:39, 14 August 2013 (UTC)


I was asked by Secular mind why I put {{OR}} (original research) on the article. It looks like most of the claims have been verified by people on this talk page. Perhaps {{unreferenced|date=August 2006}} would have been better, as there are no citations. I will replace {{OR}} with {{unreferenced|date=August 2006}}. --Midnightcomm 14:11, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

To some extend the following (cited from WP:OR might) apply
In some cases, where an article (1) makes descriptive claims the accuracy of which is easily verifiable by any reasonable adult without specialist knowledge, and (2) makes no analytic, synthetic, interpretive, or evaluative claims, a Wikipedia article may be based entirely on primary sources (examples would include apple pie or current events), but these are exceptions.
I'm a little bit worried that the "zigzag" method is a neologism, I found a web page using the same term [1], but there should be a more reputable source. Until such a source is provided American Style is probably more appropriate. Trystan seems to have access to Miss Manners' book Basic Training: Eating, which appearingly verifies the American Style. As I have personaly no access to that book I hesitate to add it as a source myself, it would be nice if Trystan could do that (maybe with page or chaperter). I will try to find a source for the European style (probably in German). Secular mind 18:09, 25 April 2006 (UTC)
apparently "Zigzagging" it was coined by Emily Post

I especially enjoy those "16th century American colonists". Many, many early (seventeenth-century of course) estate inventories have been published: forks were not rarities. The "refinement" of switching hands was invented after c. 1820, perhaps even after the Civil War, part of the newly elaborated American genteel etiquette of the Gilded Age: "gate-keeping devices to serve the cause of social exclusivity" (Hemphill p 131). In the dramatic explosion of U.S. etiquette manuals published after 1820, I wonder whether you'd find "switching" described before c. 1870. Emily Thornwell, The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility (1856) was reprinted by the Huntington Library in 1979: it might throw some light on this dimly-perceived subject. Or, better, C. Dallett Hemphill's Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860 (Oxford University Press, 1995). Is there anything in Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners (1939; tr. 1978)? Anything I might add to this hopelessly innocent and comic article would surely be cried down as "original research". I offer these hints for anyone willing to struggle uphill. This is not on my Watchlist. --Wetman 09:07, 30 August 2006 (UTC)


Here is a site the authors of this site should have a look at: [2]. Just a suggestion and FYI: both the Euro continental method and the Zig-Zag method are used in the US, with the former being depending on envrionment seen as more appropriate in elegant settings. To be honest I have a spent a large part of my life in the US where I currently life and zig-zagging in a nice resturant is not that common. But this article shouldn't be based on people's experiences. Both methods are used in the US, as my research indicates. Please lets add some sources. Signaturebrendel 07:27, 7 October 2006 (UTC)

Fork iin right hand as way to differentiate from english in colonial america[edit]

I read somewhere the fork in the right hand was a way to differentiate from the English in colonial American pubs? But can not find any reference to this.

Outside in? Inside out![edit]

Or is this another difference between America and the rest of the world? I've travelled the globe, many times over, but have never stayed for more than a stop over in America and I've always been drilled by my parents from a young age that you use your utensils from the inside out. Thus making room from an entree plate for a main plate, et cetera. 08:41, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Far be it for me to say your parents are wrong, but I am going to do so anyway! When a table is set for formal dining, the cutlery is arranged in such a way as to be used from the outside in. It should be set with ample space for the largest plate to be accomodated. The only exception to this is dessert cutlery, which sits above where the plate would go, however in a higher class establishment the waiter will move this into its correct positions, fork on the left and spoon on the right, before the dessert is served.
Incidentally, I have always found the use of the word 'entree' for a main course to be a little odd, given that it means 'entrance' which would seem to be a more appropriate name for the starter. I had never heard of it before I was an exchange student in America.Ewan carmichael 15:50, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
The "entrée" indead is a starting dish all over the world - apart from, again, North America. (talk) 05:41, 27 December 2008 (UTC)

Oh yeah? Neither Korea nor Taiwan have the concept of a *starting dish*. Maybe Europeans don't consider them as part of the world. I spent 15 months in the former and 13 months in the latter. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:05, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

European utensil handling[edit]

In Europe, the fork is held pretty much as in the states - the tines pointing down and pressed into what is being cut, then turned to be held somewhat like a pencil to allow greater movability. This allows the end of the fork to move straight into the mouth of the consumer without the need to move the elbow above the table (which is considered rude unless it is required in order to reach something in front of you). Also, unless absolutely necessary, it is considered rude to cut off more than one will eat in a single bite.

Furthermore, indicating that one has finished his/her course is done by placing fork and knife on the plate in parallel in a "twenty past five" postition. Resting the utencils for any other reason is done in the most practical way - preferably without crossing more than the blade of the knife by the tines of the fork.

In contrast to the American method of using a fork much like a spoon (tines up), the Europeans primarily use the fork with tines facing away from the user (tines down). Only in Britain, this method is widely correct. In most continental Countrys this would be considered bad table manners. 16:10, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

Since this is the *European utensil handling* section, it should be mentioned that when they want to emphasize a point in their table talk they'll jab their knife or fork at people and/or wave them in the air. I was never able to ascertain the proper way to do this. Do you wave them clockwise or counter clockwise? As an aside I want to mention that when I was close enough to hear the conversation (12 or 13m) all I heard were grunts and multi syllable guttural sounds. Could be they weren't talking, just eating. They wore their hats correctly, bill forward. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:07, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Regardless of what is prevalent throughout the world, it is not up to wikipedians to name something the "Standard Method". These two methods are known by their respective names in the English speaking world. You can claim the "continental" method is more prevalent, and I can claim that the American method is equally codified, and one saves time and energy, and one looks more dainty, or less ridiculous, or that both are an insult to the chef by suggesting that the diner must continue to prepare the food after it has been served, or that serving food that requires cutting in the first place is barbaric and antiquated, and only a fork should be required, but none of these opinions can create a claim to what is the "Standard Method." --Njsustain (talk) 19:51, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

But the terms "European method" and "Continental method" are not used throughout the English speaking world. They are only used in the USA. No Briton, Irishman or Australian would ever describe their own method as "continental".
If this article uses the term "standard method", it will not be naming the term "The Standard Method", it will be simply describing it as the most prevalent method, because that's what "standard" means. Nick (talk)
It's still a judgement (and therefore inappropriate for an encylopedia) to decide that one acceptable method is "standard" while the other is "non-standard" simply because of the number of countries which use them. That is not NPOV. As both are considered acceptable, (neither is "poor etiquette" on either side of the Atlantic or anywhere else) they are both "standard", period. If you really want to describe one as still being more "commonly" used in Europe, that is the term that should be used, not "standard." Njsustain (talk) 09:23, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
You are mistaken, Njsustain. I have read in American etiquette books that the normal method is acceptable in the USA, albeit non-standard. BUT the American method is extremely poor etiquette outside the USA (although I wouldn't be surprised if it were tolerated in Canada). This is OR, granted, but I can say from experience that the American method would be shockingly unacceptable in Australia or France (the only countries I know well enough to pronounce on); I assume this would be equally true in Germany, Ireland, the UK etc. (Above Bravada describes the American method as being considered "boorish" in Poland.) At present I don't have a reliable source saying explicitly that it's unacceptable but the fact is so obvious to anyone raised outside the USA that I have no hesitation in deleting anything that explicitly says that it is widely acceptable. (If you can find reliable sources detailing in which countries it is acceptable, go ahead.)
As to the question of terminology, can you think of a short phrase that can be used as a title that means, "the only acceptable method in every country that uses knives and forks, except one (where it is still acceptable)" but wouldn't be a "judgement"? (I mean, we're allowed to repeat prescriptive opinions, just no OR.) Nick (talk) 15:22, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
Here's a quote from an American etiquette book: "In England it is considered to be underbred ever to transfer the fork to the right hand." Clara Jessup Moore, Sensible etiquette of the best society, customs, manners, morals, and home culture, 18th edn, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1878, p. 162 n. So, although still a prescriptive judgement, it's no longer original research. Nick (talk) 16:02, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
I seriously doubt any modern etiquette authorities would consider the zigzag method "Shocking, utterly utterly shocking," or "extremely poor etiquette," as you put it, and that it is simply "unacceptable" in certain places. Someone on one of the other etiquette pages was quoting an Emily Post book from 1922(!) to claim a traditional yet antiquated etiquette point. Basically, I think that there is a difference between "standard" and "the most commonly used acceptable method." The zigzag method is A standard method seen internationally, even if it is not the most common in some places.Njsustain (talk) 16:03, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
Ok, you're welcome to doubt it but if you're in doubt you should ask someone in the know. You might consider Emily Post out of date; she probably is in many respects. But multiple users on this talk page are telling you that this particular rule has not changed. If you want to argue that the American method has become acceptable outside North America, you'll need to cite a newer etiquette book from somewhere else. Please do try because I think that if you look hard enough, you'll find newer ones that say the same thing as the quote I've provided.
It's quite misleading to say that the America method is an international standard. It is THE (dominant) standard in the USA, (perhaps) A standard in Canada, and NON-standard everywhere else. I think you do understand my meaning when I say "shocking and unacceptable"; I don't mean that anyone using the American method will be thrown out of a restaurant but I do mean that they will get dirty looks or people will avert their eyes. Nick (talk) 18:54, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
With Nick and others of his ilk, "dirty looks" are the only ones they're capable of giving. Avert their eyes??? Idiots —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:52, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

I have no objection to someone claiming that it is one valid POV that the European standard is correct and the other method is not considered correct in Europe, if you can find a relevent reference for it, but one from 1878 is simply not... it's just ridiculous to list that as a reference to justify what you believe is a current acceptable cultural practice. If you can't find a reasobaly current one, then you have no more justification for making your claims than anyone else. And yes, I do believe that what Emily Post said in 1922 is not necessarily considered correct etiquette today.

With all due respect, this seems to border on calling people rude because of their style of eating, and that refernce you had included some very crass words that people simply don't use in polite conversations about proper behavior. The rudest thing of all is to call other people rude, and suggesting that certain people are not of proper breeding is absolutely archaic etiquette, even in discussions of the rules. Please find a modern relevant reference or drop this. Njsustain (talk) 19:27, 24 September 2009 (UTC)


  • Remember that Bravada and I have assured you that it is still the case in a number of countries. Please explain why you think that this has changed.
  • "Calling people rude because of their style of eating" is exactly what etiquette is all about!
  • Most importantly, asserting that the American method is acceptable elsewhere is OR until you can provide a reference newer and more authoritative than mine. Please do not reinsert this misinformation. Nick (talk) 20:00, 24 September 2009 (UTC)
I hadn't inserted anything into the article, only discussed (and removed a 130 year old "reference" and it's corresponding antique claims). As for what etiquette is all about, I think you are gravely mistaken if you think that is an adequate description of the purpose of etiquette in the 21st century. Perhaps it was in many circles in 1878, but if you are truly interested in creating an encylopedic article on etiquette, this is not the case. Perhaps you would be interested in writing an article on 19th century etiquette? Njsustain (talk) 20:42, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

Authority, standards, and what's "correct"[edit]

Is there really a need to discuss what's "correct" in an article describing the differences from one region of the world to another? What difference does it make whether a minority or majority use a particular style, in terms of educating through discussion how customs vary from one part of the world to another, on a subject where the major claims are rooted in an ambiguous "correctness" or citations of superiority of particular technique that may not truly bear out in all circumstances?

For example, in China, the majority of people tolerate communism. Does that make communism correct?

Having just spent a month traveling through Europe, watching people eat, I can assure you that the American style is not "unheard of" nor is the "continental" style without its flaws. Watching Europeans struggle with forking particulate food using the Euro style was no less painful than watching someone switch utensils in the American style.

Anyway, go ahead and insist that you are correct, or that someone else is wrong, if it cements your sense of superiority. But in the end what differences does it make to you, and why are you so offended, if someone uses their utensils differently from you, if it's effective for them? The actual vast majority of the world's population eats with sticks or their fingers. So if you want to talk pure majorities, utensils themselves are "incorrect."

Don't be so haughty, and demand that everyone do things the way that you do.


This article begs for photos or diagrams of the different ways to hold and use the fork.-- 16:01, 11 October 2007 (UTC)

This would still be useful, if anyone out there is paying attention... -Ellisthion (talk) 13:27, 12 November 2008 (UTC)

Article order - US bias?[edit]

It seems a bit odd to me to start the article with the "American method", specifying that it's the style mostly used in the US, and then go on to say that practically everywhere else the "European method" is preferred. Shouldn't the article state the (globally) more applicable etiquette first? MCSmarties (talk) 20:29, 13 January 2009 (UTC)

It's not the order that's the worst part, it's the name "Continental method". As you say, every country that uses knives and forks at the table does it the same way, except the USA. I've asked Canadians who insist that they too do it normally (although there could be a few near the border who prefer the American method). It's also the standard in Australia, NZ and plenty of other places far from Europe. So I propose to change the order as you say but more importantly call it "Standard Method" ("normal" would be too provocative). Nick (talk) 14:11, 23 September 2009 (UTC)

Article correction[edit]

Should the American way read that the fork is held on the *left* hand, and then switched to the right hand? (talk) 15:23, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

What has moving this article accomplished?[edit]

A section on chopsticks that is not in standard English (this is English WP after all) does not justify the movement of Fork Etiquette to Eating Utensil. I think Fork Etiquette should be restored. Njsustain (talk) 21:40, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

Moving this article has made way for a section on spoon etiquette - slurping, holding-style, soup spoon vs. dessert spoon. Leegee23 (talk) 16:23, 26 September 2012 (UTC)

RfC Acceptability and Naming of Fork Methods[edit]

1. Both methods are acceptable in North America but is the American Method considered proper etiquette elsewhere?

2. The term "Continental Method" is only used in the USA. The people who use this method don't call it that nor are they all from Europe. Can we find a better description? Nick (talk) 20:07, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

Re Acceptability: A number of users on this talk page have commented that the American fork method is not considered proper etiquette in their country so the article should not indicate that it is considered standard worldwide. The only candidate for a country where it is considered standard apart from the USA is Canada. It is difficult to find sources saying this explicitly but I have found these quotes:

"we are the only country in the world whose inhabitants shift the fork, after cutting, from the left hand to the right" Letitia Baldrige's new manners for new times: a complete guide to etiquette, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003, p. 195.
"In England it is considered to be underbred ever to transfer the fork to the right hand." Clara Jessup Moore, Sensible etiquette of the best society, customs, manners, morals, and home culture, 18th edn, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1878, p. 162 n.
"When it is necessary to use both knife and fork the knife is held in the right hand and the fork in the left In this case the food should be carried to the mouth with the fork in the left hand... It is never proper to transfer the fork from one hand to the other." Edwin Giles Fulton, Vegetarian cook book: substitutes for flesh foods, Pacific Press, 1914.
"In England among well-bred people the fork is invariably held in the left hand... In no case is the fork transferred from the left to right hand as is the custom in our own country." Paul T. Gilbert, The Key to Culture, Cosimo, Inc., 1921/2006, p.50.

The second quote is not very recent but no one has presented any other quotes to suggest that rules have changed since then.

"...eating the European way, with fork in left hand and knife in right, is considered the correct way. Most Europeans have had enough contact with Americans to know that they have a different way of wielding a knife and fork. Still, some older Swedes may interpret a fork in the right hand as less-than-perfect manners." Christina Johansson Robinowitz & Lisa Werner Carr, Modern-day Vikings: a practical guide to interacting with the Swedes, Intercultural Press, 2001, p. 147.
"'s good manners to use British knife and fork skills... though Americans may be forgiven for using their fork like a shovel." Paul Smitz, Susie Ashworth & Neal Bedford, Australia, Lonely Planet, 2004, p. 76.

These last two quotes suggest that American customs may be tolerated from American tourists but are by no means considered proper table manners in those countries.

Re name: I suggested "standard method" because it's the only acceptable method in any country that uses knives and forks, execept the USA (and maybe Canada). I'm not particularly wedded to that name, it just bothers me that the people who use this method don't call it that (Wikipedia:ENGVAR) nor are they all from Europe. If "standard" is too tendentious, I'd settle for the "two-handed method" or something equally descriptive. Nick (talk) 23:54, 24 September 2009 (UTC)

"American" and "European" without "continental". "Continental" is confusing to UK readers because it implies that this method is peculiar to continental Europe and is not used in the UK. Although the European method is not restricted to Europe it originated there and thus "European" is a fair description. The terms are also simple, and less PoV than say "Standard". Martin Hogbin (talk) 22:22, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

The problem with a lot of American reliable sources on etiquette is that they seem to be convinced that there are two countries in the world: the USA and "England". What's called the "Continental" style is often what is done in London, and perhaps Paris; most etiquette books were written at a time when the rest of Europe simply didn't matter to Americans. To find out about etiquette in countries other than the US, I suspect you'll have to locate references written in those countries for the citizens of those countries. Until then, I think the article has to be rewritten in part to state clearly that the reliable sources referred to only mention American and UK etiquette so as not to create an inaccurate impression. (Incidentally, where I live in Canada it's about 50/50, but I suspect that differs from community to community.) --NellieBly (talk) 23:47, 15 October 2009 (UTC)
I agree that "continental" is bad but I'm not sure that "European" is much better. Have the British and Irish really started to consider themselves Europeans? What about Australia, New Zealand and South Africa? Ooh, we should find out how they do it in South America! Nick (talk)
It really does not matter. There is little doubt that the style originated in Europe (including the UK). It is no different from calling the language that Americans or Australians speak 'English'. It is just the name of the language, based on it origin. I am pretty sure that neither the Brits, Irish, nor Australians would take offence at their eating style being called 'European'. On the other hand, calling one style 'standard', even if it is the most common, could be regarded as mildly insulting by users of other styles.
Regarding South America, I wondered which style they use there. We should find out. Martin Hogbin (talk) 08:33, 16 October 2009 (UTC)
Whatever method prevails, it will presumably have to be called the "American method", or are we to rename this to the "North American method" if we discover that South Americans prefer the "European method" (which would then have to be re-named the "south American and European method"). Heaven help us if we then extend this seatch to the rest of the world. Rather than include the region(s) in the title, why not just stick to "ZigZag" and "Straight" methods?Markb (talk) 12:45, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Yes, in South America we use the same method as the europeans. -- (talk) 20:13, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Fork only?[edit]

Should some mention be made of using the fork only (even when the table may have been laid with a knife and fork) for dishes such as rice or pasta which do not require the use of a knife? In the UK at least, it has become acceptable in most circles to use a fork only (held tines up in the dominant hand) in these cases. Martin Hogbin (talk) 22:30, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

In Australia it's also acceptable to use the fork in your right hand for pasta, but in that situation there's never a knife there. I was taught that etiquette demands that you use whatever is laid out. So, e.g. when provided with a fork and spoon for a formal dessert, it would be rude to use only one or the other. Nick (talk) 23:01, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

In Colombia rice and soup are often part of a regular meal and therefore the table is laid with knife, fork and spoon. The fork is held both with the right and left hand during the course of the same meal. I have to tell that I know nothing for certain about etiquette, but that is just the way I haver seen it is around here. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jucalon (talkcontribs) 17:30, 22 July 2012 (UTC)

American Colonists[edit]

In the "European Style" section describing why Americans use their forks differently than other parts of the British empire needs a citation. It states that the American colonies were establisbed before the fork and fork ettiquette became common usage in Europe yet other places, such as Canada, were settled just as early as the American colonies and yet it states that Canada uses the British usage. This passages needs to be clarified and citations are needed.

That was false information. I rewrote the origins. Please see the source for the full discussion.Njsustain (talk) 23:37, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

Australian style[edit]

In the article Australia is lumped in with the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth with the rule of knife always in right hand, fork always in left.

It's certainly not true in Australia -- or at least of my social stratum in Australia (middle class, Irish background).

I'm not going to go looking for sources to back up what I say so I won't update the article, but Australian etiquette as I was taught is:

  • Knife and fork generally in right and left hand respectively
  • With foods best scooped (rice, peas, etc) the fork is used in the right hand held tines up for scooping; the knife is used in the left hand to help food onto the fork.

-- (talk) 03:11, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

The above is becoming more and more common in the US. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:17, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

This is becoming generally more acceptable in the UK also, except at the most formal occasions, especially for 'fork only' foods. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:55, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

I think the best thing is to say that European style is only considered essential (in Europe) on fairly formal occasions. I am sure that in most countries of the world there has been a general relaxation of eating rules in most circumstances. The article might say something along these lines. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:58, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

European style - citations[edit]

I have removed some of the the 'citation needed' tags from the European style section. Whilst I agree that reliable sources are generally required I suggest that this is not so for something that is a daily occurrence for hundreds of millions of people. Martin Hogbin (talk) 16:51, 2 April 2011 (UTC)

Zig-zag method?[edit]

As a born American citizen, I have never seen anyone American use the so-called "zig-zag method" (in fact the only person in my recollection who I have seen use it was Chinese). What I HAVE seen is a lot of people who, like myself, hold the fork with their right hand and the knife with their left hand throughout the duration of the meal. Are there different practices throughout the US, or is this simply a case of a generality I have somehow managed to avoid? FYI I'm originally from Oregon but currently live in Indiana. In Oregon everyone I knew held their utensils as I do. Virtually everyone I know here is from abroad, so I naturally see a lot of "European method", I can't speak for native Indianans. --GregorR (talk) 12:54, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Fork discussion is myopic[edit]

The whole section on fork etiquette is/was focused solely on what to do with your fork after cutting meat. Newsflash, the fork is used for other foods besides steak. The fork is used to consume food without cutting. In fact, it is considered proper to cut food with the side of your fork if it is capable of doing so without using a knife. The entire section needs to be rewritten. I don't really feel like it right now, but thought I'd mention it here. Njsustain (talk) 23:35, 18 September 2011 (UTC)

Things not to fight over[edit]

Please let us not get into an East vs West or US vs UK vs Europe fight about which method is the 'best'. They are a social customs used in different places. None is inherently better or worse than any other. Martin Hogbin (talk)

As I am a vegetarian and never need to use a knife to cut food on my plate, I assure you my interest is strictly academic. Njsustain (talk) 20:09, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Mr. Hogbin, I find it odd and puzzling that you removed a reference along with referenced information, and then added a tag requesting a reference. It seems you are the one trying to start a fight for no reason. Njsustain (talk) 14:50, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

I removed what seemed to be the start of a claim that one particular eating style was better is some way than another. It did have a reference but that does not mean that we must include it here. There are no doubt many views on which is the 'best' way to eat mostly based on national customs. We do not want to start a 'my way of eating is better than yours' fight so I think it is best to have anything that might push the article in that direction. If there were some globally and universally accepted secondary sources on the subject (which I very much doubt) we might include what they say.
The tags refer to different sentences which are not referenced. Martin Hogbin (talk) 15:27, 23 October 2011 (UTC)
The article cited at the end of the paragraph is the source material for the entire paragraph. WP:CITE is a bit vague on the point, but seems to indicate that citing an entire paragraph is fine. The style guides with which I am familiar suggest the same, rather than duplicating the same reference after every sentence.
I think well-sourced quotes from experts in the field about the relative merits of etiquette practices are valuable additions to the article. Particularly in this case, where the claim wasn't that one is better than another, it was that it was a mistake to think that the European style is better than the American.--Trystan (talk) 22:24, 23 October 2011 (UTC)
But who is claiming the European style is better? Best we keep right out of such silly arguments. Sorry if I messed up the reference. Please feel to reinstate it and remove the tag. Martin Hogbin (talk) 11:22, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

left handed/right handed[edit]

I think the article should be rewritten using 'dominant' and 'weak' hand instead of left and right because most left handed people do things the opposite way that right handed people do, such as using a fork and knife. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:52, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

The sources tend to use right hand/left hand, so I would support keeping the article in line with them on that point. Though the article should note that etiquette does allow left-handed people to "reverse the usual positions."[3].--Trystan (talk) 16:37, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree that we should keep 'left' and 'right'. I am not sure that all rules of etiquette allow left-handed eating. Martin Hogbin (talk) 15:28, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Mongolian etiquette[edit]

I have removed the following section headed "Mongolian etiquette":

"Proceed to grab fork with dominate hand with fork tines pointing down. Then sink tines into whole food and take mouthful bites vigorously . Quickly chew , while grabbing a beverage and wash it down.[citation needed]"

It seems to be a crude attempt at humour: Other sources indicate that the behaviour suggested would give as much offence in Mongolia as anywhere else in the world:, — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:44, 11 November 2013 (UTC)