What Would George Do?

3g12934uGeorge is George Washington, the first president of the U.S. And the question – What would George do? – is the title of an article written by Louis Jacobson, a reporter for the Tampa Bay (Florida) Times newspaper and Politifact web site.

Several months ago, Jacobson found a copy of a small book – Washington’s Rules of Civility (polite behavior) – that was written when George Washington was a teenager. Today we might call the book Rules for Becoming a Good Person.

At that time, it was common for students to copy lists of social and moral (what is good/evil, right/wrong) rules like these. The goal was for students to learn the rules and become good people and citizens and partly, I believe, to improve their handwriting. According to Jacobson, the rules Washington copied come from a French book – Good Manners in Conversation Among Men – written in 1595.

In celebration of our Presidents’ Day (the third Monday in February), President Lincoln’s birthday (February 12), and President Washington’s birthday (February 22), I thought it would be fun to try to rewrite a few of Washington’s rules in simple modern English and to share them with you. Some will make you smile. Others, I hope, will make you think. Here they are:

Everything you do should show respect for the people around you.

Don’t say anything, either jokingly or seriously, that will hurt another person. Don’t laugh at or talk about anyone in a way that lets them know you think they’re stupid, even if they are.

When others are nearby, don’t sing to yourself with a humming (“mmmmm”) sound or drum (tap on the table or floor) with your fingers or feet.

If you cough, sneeze, sigh (breath out with a loud sound when you are tired, bored, etc.), or yawn, do it quietly, not loudly. Don’t speak while you’re yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand in front of your face and turn to the side.

Don’t sleep when others speak, don’t sit when others stand, don’t speak when you should be quiet, and don’t walk when others stop.

Don’t act happy when someone has bad luck, even if he or she is your enemy.

When you visit someone who is sick, don’t act like you’re their doctor, especially if you don’t know anything about medicine.

Don’t argue with someone who is your superior (someone who has a higher position than you); obey (do what they ask you to do) them and don’t try to act more important than you really are.

Don’t wear smelly, dirty, or torn clothes; brush them off at least once a day; be careful not to look dirty, not even a little.

If you have any respect for your own reputation (what people think or say about you), spend time with good people; it’s better to be alone than to spend time with bad people.

Don’t share news if you’re not sure it’s true.

Don’t be curious (wanting to know something) about other people’s business and don’t try to listen when others are speaking to each other privately.

Don’t be so anxious to win an argument that you don’t give every person a chance to share their opinion; let the majority decide who is right.

Don’t say anything bad about someone who is not present, because that is unjust (not fair or reasonable).

Don’t take a second bite of food until you have swallowed the first one; don’t take bites that are too big for your mouth.

Don’t drink or talk when your mouth is full of food; don’t look around while you are drinking.

Don’t clean your teeth with the table cloth, napkin, fork, or knife; use a toothpick.

Whatever happens, don’t get angry at the table, and if you have a reason to be angry, don’t show it; be cheerful, especially if strangers are at the table, because good humor (a pleasant attitude) turns one dish of meat into a feast.

And my favorite:

Work hard to keep that little spark of heavenly fire called conscience (the voice inside that tells you if what you’re doing is right or wrong) alive in your heart.

If you’d like to see all of Washington’s rules as they were originally written, you can find them here.

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor/coach and creator of Successful English, where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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21 Responses to What Would George Do?

  1. Peter says:

    My dear professor warren,

    It all boils down to simple line :
    Be a prophet , be a saint , be an angle

    See , all the long talk can be compressed into three above

    The question is : are you the man ?

    Because I m not :))


  2. emiliano says:

    Dear Warren, thank you.

    Some of the rules I try to follow, other are my way of doing or thinking without too much effort, but there are
    some of the rules that affects me directly, few but I need to have in mind them just to be a right person.
    Just a momento ago I was talking with Cuca about the fact of learning lessons that life gives us continuosly
    and it would be good that living a long life we could learn from these lessons.
    The same could be applied to these other rules or lessons.

    I agree with all the rules absolutely, despite some of them could be look as old or out of time, but they
    aren´t as my point of view.

    Thanks a lot Warren, I do think this is a nice good topic to talk about.

    My best to you.

  3. emiliano says:

    Dear Betty,
    Thanks a lot, I could see you are reading my blog my dear friend, so Thanks a Lot.

    How I could know it?
    It is easy, google has the tools to know it if a person has a Blog, as it is my case.
    Do you know something?
    Now I have a person, a friend I hope, that Exchange lessons with me now.
    I teach him Spanish and he corrects my English writing in the Blog.
    It is incredible useful, and first he said that my English is good but it is clear
    that stil I am thinking in Spanish when I am writing in English.
    Once he writes below mine the right way I could see what he said absolutely

    I think this is a very good way of learning a language once you have a level.

    If you open an account in Facebook you´ll see me also and you could tell
    me about my bad or good writing…I´ll do the same with you my friend.

    Hi Tania, I am waiting for you too. There are four or five Romanias that are
    in touch through Facebook.

    Bye friends

    Emiliano (desembuches gatufo)

  4. emiliano says:

    By the way, the name of this new person who is living in California
    (Santa Rosa) and Exchange English x Spanish…..is JEFF.
    May be.


  5. sirjoe777 says:

    Dear Warren,
    you know that rules are good rules particularly if you can break them… almost sometimes!
    In my humble opinion this is acceptable – I don’t like the word “true” – in many situations,
    also in writing: ever masterpieces broke something, like the grammar rules…
    But I think that – as Robert Musil would say – to break the rules need precision and objectivity –
    that is… measure!
    As a teacher, I would like that mostly of my students would respect mostly of the George’s rules,
    because good manners make(th) the well-mannered man, and to respect the people around us is
    really… comfortable. But what about don’t argue with our
    superior if that bloke could be Mr. Berlusconi or… Mr. Mussolini?
    Thank you for your precious posts.
    P.s. As you, I prefer the last one!

  6. emiliano says:

    Good subject Sergio, you know that we use to have our Little argues…., but no this time
    Now I have to agree with you in the way that I couldn´t see mr.
    Berlusconi or mr Mussolini, mr. franco. mr. Stalin and so many
    supposed great men or woman as I can´t see them, as many other
    people I have know along my life, as superiors….by the contrary
    some time it is just the contrary.

    As we say here, in this world have to be all kind of everything….
    in Spanish “en este mundo tiene que haber de todo”.

    Just a pleasure Sergio, when we are going to be in touch again?
    What about your life, about your trip to Madrid, and so on.

    I am waiting for you, for Mara and for Silvia.

    Greetings my friend. emiliano

  7. Dan says:

    Hello everyone

    It seems to me that this list makes sense.

    It is a good set of rules.

    The only one I do not share is the way on how to clean the teeth..
    I would say Do NOT use a toothpick.. just keep a dental floss in your pocket and use it in the bathroom.
    that is what I do.

    What about letting the Cat jumping on the table while having a meal?

    I let my precious Princess on the table while eating…. and sometimes she stretches her paw and steals from my dish…
    What do you guys think about that? should I aloow the cat on the table?

    I bet Betty would not, would you Betty?

    I know that hygenically it is not the best thing to do, but how can I resist her?? I am totally under her power..
    Yes I confess I am a SLAVE of a cat.


  8. emiliano says:

    I have now in the computer wind 8 ……and it is horrible.
    The machine writes for me what it likes, every moment
    I haver to revise the writing, and doing it worst as time goes
    Sorry by my bad English.


  9. sutisha says:

    Dear Warren,

    I really admire your perspicuous rewriting the rules. I do smile and think a lot!
    Your script takes me back to the days I was an elementary student who had
    to copy nearly a hundred of social and moral rules every academic year.
    In the first year. it was quite hard to memorize all. My teacher -a nun- was
    so strict that if any of us failed to give the correct answer even just one of
    the ten, we had to copy fifty times for a wrong answer. :-)) Thanks to her,
    I have got a lot of teachings to rationalize my children in countless situations.

    By the way, let’s imagine what George would do while he was getting stuck
    in a jam and simultaneously facing with one after another drivers on the turn-left
    lane (it should be the turn-right lane in the US) trying to cut off in front of his car … !?

    Best regards

  10. thanassis says:

    Hi everyone.thanks Warren for your article.It was a compilation of rules with whom we smile or we think probably that there are exaggerated,but i think all we must say that is a way to have a good behaviour.Almost the big majority of these thoughts-rules are the way of my life the mode how i am thinking in contemporary life,like a coincidence i read how i proceed everyday.Dear Emiliano, how can i find the address of your blog,because i have lost it.A question refering to the anterior article,why more and more people listen NPR? Bye friends,Thanassis.

  11. emiliano says:

    Kalimera dear thanassis,
    thanks a lot to you and to all that may want to see some of my writing.

    To find me it is easy, only have to write in google´s bar

    gatufo´s blog

    It is enough, you may see some links that goes directly to the site.
    In Blogger or Facebook, there is the same.

    Now in this my other life and may be (that for sure) thanks to this my firs Blog of
    E.S.L. (thanks Jeff) I am discovering my new profession:

    “A communicator” ? ?

    How things are going on thanassis? I hope a bit better.



  12. Betty says:

    Hello to all of you who have written here.

    I would like to express my thanks to you all because I have learned a lot everyday by reading your messages which are truly world stories.


    Dear Warren

    Thank you for this article which tells us something important in the US – a National Holiday in US, the Presidents’ Day.

    After reading your article, I decided to search the internet about US public holidays. I was surprised to find so many types of holidays in the US. It must be the only country in the world that has the most types of holidays and most number of days as holidays.

    There is so much that I want to write about the ““Washington’s Rules of Civility”, but my head can think more than my fingers can type.

    So I will briefly comment on one of the rules.

    “Don’t sleep when others speak”.

    It is an open secret that some of us listen to Jeff when we need some calm and soft voice to help us fall asleep after a long day’s hard work.

    Sorry we have broken this one of Washington’s Rules of Civility.

    Although the famous quote which says Washington told his father that : “Father, I Can Not Tell a Lie; I Cut the Tree,” was probably a myth, “Jeff, I cannot tell a lie, I fell asleep” was a truth.

    Many thanks again, Warren, you are so eager to teach us good English. I would like you to know that I am an eager student of yours.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  13. Betty says:

    Hi Dan

    Yes, I would not let my cat jump onto the table while having a meal, let alone letting it steal my food off my plate.

    One reason being our table is so small that there is no room for the cat. You must have a very large dining table!

    The second reason being, as you said, hygienically it is not the best thing to do.

    But because you are a SLAVE of your Princess, what can I say?

    When I was little, every time when we (the whole family) returned home after a long time (a few hours) away from home, when we opened the door, the dog quickly dumped out of my bed and pretended he had been sleeping on his own bed. Cheeky dog!

    My cat simply slept on my pillow while I was sleeping. He snored so loudly that it woke me up and I told him to go away. He would go and then come back again after I felt asleep again. What a cat!

    You see, I was not much better than you in terms of training pets.

    By the way, I accidentally found a website called “mypetzrule”.

    They have many types of pets in that website. Cats can be found there of course.

    I was very surprises to find a type of pet called “rocks”. Even a rock can be trained as people’s pet. How amazing! I would say my iphone is my new pet. It is quite expensive to buy and to maintain, but it is my most loyal friend now.

    If you are interested, Dan, I have extracted something about cat as pet for your bedtime reading at the end of this message if Jeff allows me to quote it here.

    Nice talking to you.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

    According to “Mypetzrule.com”,

    “Cats are also known as the domestic or house cats to distinguish them from other felines. They are small, carnivorous mammals that are valued by us for their companionship and on farms and other places, for their ability to hunt rats, mice and other vermin. Cats are skilled predators and hunts over 1000 species for food which is why they are best kept indoors unless they are a working cat. Cats have been associated with humans for at least 9,500 years, the ancient Egyptians even worshipping them as gods.

    Cats are intelligent and can be trained with a lot of patience to obey simple commands and learn to operate simple mechanisms as well as their owners!! They use body language and vocalisations like mewing (“meow”) purring, hissing, and growling to communicate. Besides being valued as pets, cats are also bred for sale and showing. Prices for cats range from several hundred dollars for a pure bred cat to a few dollars for a moggie from the pound.

    Cats are fairly high maintenance – they require food, water and grooming daily and if kept indoors their trays will need cleaning regularly. However they are probably the most affectionate of all pets and the sound of a contented cat purring on your lap is well worth the trouble!!”

  14. Peter says:

    Dear Dan,
    Your guess is one hundred percent true is not sanitary , I mean insanitary , letting your pet nibble at your food.
    So , you like to pet your cat
    I m not a pet person
    Frankly ,they are one of my pet peeves.
    Whenever I see a cat or Dog on the street I go around them ,I never walk close to them. The truth is i like sharks and snakes. I rather keep them . well ,it is a little quirk of mine. I myself never had a pet. It is too much work. I never touched rather petted them. It is just not me.
    I remember once my close friend was going to a business trip for two or three days,and he didn’t want to leave his dog alone at home for three days. He does not like kennels either. youknow , He has this tight bond with it. He is totally attached to it. He asked me ,almost beg me to take care of it for the period he was away. I refused it instantly. He begged , and I said save your breath. It is out of question. I bdbet let him bring his dog to my place while visiting.
    The thing is , I need sb to take care of me, the last thing I want in this house is another thing that eats and poos.:)))

    All of the tips ,rather advice extracted from the book make senses. The tips cover almost all area. They are good hints of socially acceptable behaviours. But , they are not easy to follow. Trust me one or two faux paus here or there do not hurt anybody. So , we don’t need to follow them by letter but by spirit


  15. emiliano says:

    Poor Peter, you don´t know what are you taken away from you, dogs are the best friends of humans since thousand of years. Why? ….somthing to think about.
    The most loyal friend could be a dog or a cat, that´s for sure.
    Betty, you have described Gatufo, my dear cat.
    He is absolutely good trained, he does which ever thing I ask him for, and has enough respect as to not doing what he knows he it is not allowed to do
    if I am in the room.
    But, yes, I let him do more things each day we are together.

    Cuca is even worst than me, never shout to him and let Gatufo do several things like lick a bombom ice cream while she was eating it. Just incredible for me
    as the Cat was happy and she also looks happy seing it.
    Some times Gatufo wants to jump on her while she is eating and smell the food to see if he likes the food or not.

    No, the cat doesn´t jump on the table if I am present, and if he does and listen to me inmediately jumps down to the floor before I could see hime because
    he knows i get angry with him. Inteligent and friendly Gatufo, he goes every place I go through the house and he always wanted to be on my lap, on my
    legs or near close to me.

    Why I have called my blog in Facebook……gatufo´s blog……just because he is more smart than me, also inspired me what to say.

    Dan or Sergio are like me about their cats

    My best Betty, I am awaiting for you in Facebook gatufo´s blog there you may see my cat, my girls, Cuca and me, of course. Also if you like you may
    read some notes in English or Spanish. Tape the phrase in google search, and you´ll be looking gatufo´s face or emiliano and family too.

    Bye dear Betty.


  16. Dan says:

    Thank you Betty and Pete for taking the time for writing.

    It is always a pleasure reading from you guys and I always do that.


    I love hearing about pets stories from their owners. I enjoyed reading about your pets.

    I liked your first comment about falling asleep as well. You are a funny woman.

    And I love your attitude and outlook on things.


    Sometimes I do not understand you.

    To me is natural loving all the animals. When I see a, say a horse or a dog I am pulled towards them.
    Or, when I see a cat or a fox a smile pops up on my face instantly.
    I thought that was the same for everyone else.
    But reading from you it seems that is not the case.

    Thank you both guys

  17. Dan says:

    Hey guys,

    For the animal lovers here is an interesting piece:

    Look for “Honey, It’s Electric: Bees Sense Charge On Flowers” at NPR.

    Facinating stuff! Enjoy it.

    Hi Thanassis,

    I like how you name sounds saying it.

    Personally, I listen to NPR just because I am an old time radio listener.
    It is just a Radio station as many others. I also listen to BBC world service.

    There are many interesting programs on NPR and many people, mostly from the U.S. since it’s an American broadcaster, calling in.

    I listen to it many hours a day. I mean, we can,t just listen to Mr. Jeff, Right? No kidding Jeff is the N. 1.

    Thanks bye bye!

  18. emiliano says:

    A while ago I was talking, writing, by Facebook with a nice Young of 25 years old from Egypt. He looks to me so smart and good
    educated, but also respectul with a man like me that more doubles his age.

    It is so incredible and nice to me that other countries and cultures still show respect for the ideas of nearly and old man that
    it has, and will be I hope, a good nice time chatting together.

    I have told him that if he wants to improve his English comes to ESL podcast and Blog, just the best site of the web for that
    effort of learning a foreign language.

    I hope to see him here, I am sure he will do, another friend in the Blog.



  19. thanassis says:

    Buenos dias Emiliano,and the other friends,dear Emiliano i will try to find your blog and to change opinions in English as well as in Spanish which i learn without teacher only with the help of internet.Respecting the other friends, and respecting the blog i will write only in English.Dear Dan thank you for your answer to my question about the NPR,i think is a station with low tension ,responsible without screams and impression dialogues,and i keep listen to it to improve my English.A propo,do you know an address in internet in which someone can listen radiotheatre or as in English we call it drama.It`s a good realization and the persons who contribute are making a nice work,on BBC in channel 4 extra,but is in British pronunciation and i would like in American, i think is more understandable to me.Of course a half an hour that i spend in English Cafe with Jeff is an enjoyment.Bye friends,Thanassis.

  20. emiliano says:

    Kalimera Thanassis,

    Here we are, Cuca, Gatufo and me.
    Another day listening to the radio the same things than ever, prima de riesgo, Berlusconi again in Italia, and that the Italian´s votes have been
    against the sistem.
    Of course, and could only one of the European politicians or even the papers be so astonish?

    Here in Spain we have two brothers that are comics, very popular some years ago, sure if they may be presented to be leaders of a new party
    on the new elections they could be get a lot of votes.
    People are fed up with the situation in the so bad called the U.E., seing that the leader do nothing, only increasing the taxes, more and more,
    every momento more people without a work, without their houses, without hopes, and so forth.
    The only subject that worried them is the Euro?. Doing nothing, helping nothing, every momento asking people to more sacrificies at the end what
    is going to happen with the Euro and the Economy….? A disaster, that´s for sure.
    They are very worried now because Italy situation is not firm, and they have done anything?. We all depends of what people are going to vote in
    Portugal, Spain, Italy, your country, France and so forth?
    It is crazy, I am fed up with the news and now first hour of the morning I am listening to Mark Knophfler and Leonard Cohen that are so good
    while Cuca and Gatufo are in the bed listening to the radio.

    All the best to all of you friends, Thanassis, Sergio, Dan, Betty, Tany, Sutisha, Peter, Hillario….and every one of you readers of this ESL Blog,
    the best one.
    If some of you read mine, thanks a lot dear friends.

    Thanks Warren, emiliano

  21. sutisha says:

    Dear Emiliano, Cuca, and Gatufo,

    I’ve just visited a “Nice place indeed.”
    The place looks calm and clean.
    I deem to do sightseeing in Madrid and
    other cities in Spain some day!
    To be honest, I’ve visited so many places
    around the world through ‘Travel Information
    and Travel Guides” via the Internet. :))))))

    With love and care to all nice friends :
    ESL Bloggers


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