Is it Rude to Eat With Elbows on the Table?

Eating with your elbows on the table has been considered poor etiquette ever since elbows were the number one reason for spilling tables, and their contents, onto the floor.

Today, our tables are much studier than the make-shift tables of early Americans and putting our elbows on the table no longer poses a threat to everyone’s meals (and drinks).

But, is it rude to eat with elbows on the table today? Or have the days of this old-fashioned table etiquette come and gone for good?

Read on below and learn the truth about this proper etiquette, tables-on-the-table-or-not, debate!

Is it Rude to Eat With Elbows on the Table?

Eating with your elbows on the table, though classically considered poor table manners, is not the major taboo that it once was.

In fact, many of today’s youth have completely missed out on the good old “no elbows on the table” days that many of us grew up during.

Today, parents, grandparents, guardians, and nannies aren’t nearly as likely to thwack you in the back of the head and remind you to keep your elbows off the table while you’re eating as they still would have just a quarter to half a century ago.

Now that our elbows no longer put our tables (and food and drinks) at risk of being tipped over and spilled onto the floor, eating with elbows on the table is seen as less and less rude each decade.

How Rude Is it?

rudemeter-rating-05

On the rude meter’s scale of 1 to 10, eating with your elbows on the table rates 5

In the past, eating with your elbows on the table was a much greater offensive, as well as a real risk of overturning the table.

A few short centuries ago, tables were often makeshift and were easily knocked over (and everything on them). 

Putting elbows on the table and leaning forward with your weight, or accidentally bumping the table were the most common ways to overturn a table.

Today, our tables are sturdy, and our hygiene habits are much better, hence, eating with elbows on the table isn’t such a big deal anymore.

Why isn’t it Rude?

There was a time when eating with elbows on the table was one of the rudest and clumsiest things one could do while having a meal in the presence of others.

The fact is that those days have come and are now swiftly passing by. 

That’s because the original purpose and intent of keeping your elbows off the table while eating are no longer accurate.

Today, putting your elbows on the table while you eat poses no more threat than setting your dishes and glasses on the table does.

Common Questions

Why are elbows on the table rude?

Putting your elbows on the table was once considered one of the highest meal-time offensives would commit. 

Today, with the rise of mass-produced tables which are highly sturdy and rarely ever get overturned, the risk level of eating with your elbows on the table is all but gone.

Why is it rude to eat with elbows showing?

With human beings, one thing always leads to another. 

That’s how the risk of overturning the table during a meal, via your elbows, morphed into showing your elbows while eating being considered technically rude and inappropriate behavior.

Where did the no-elbows rule come from?

The no-elbows on the table rule came from times gone by when most tables were makeshift or temporary surfaces thrown together strictly for the purpose of eating. 

These tables were rather easy to knock over, and elbows were the number one factor that contributed to overturning the table during a meal.