Classy behavior?
October 6, 2007 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Classy behavior: What are some examples of classy behavior in everyday life? (And NOT in sports, please)

There are lots of references in Google and AskMeFi to NON-classy behavior. I'm curious to know about examples of classy behavior that the Hive Mind can cite. Google, on quick check, brings up two articles with examples, both from professional sports. I'm much more interested in actual examples of classy behavior from real life - business, personal, etc.
posted by charris5005 to Human Relations (62 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
Defining classy for us would be a good start.
posted by SpecialK at 8:54 AM on October 6, 2007


Giving up your seat in a crowded bus to an old lady.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:59 AM on October 6, 2007


I invited a friend of a friend who I barely knew to a bbq I hosted this summer. He came and subsequently wrote me a thank-you note for inviting and looking after him well.

I thought it was pretty classy.
posted by gadha at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


A girl who knows how to comport herself AND have a good time in either a dive bar or a fancy-pants bar is a classy girl.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


In college, the mother of a guy I dated gave me a small gift (a great necklace that I've worn a lot) the first or second time she met me. I think that's awesome. I didn't appreciate the gesture enough at the time, but had I been more normal it would have made me feel much more at ease, I think.
posted by amtho at 9:09 AM on October 6, 2007


Sending thank you notes (actual notes not e-mails) to people who’ve helped you in some way.

If you’re having a disagreement with someone and you realize you’re wrong, admitting that you were wrong is classy (i.e., “I stand corrected . . .”)
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:16 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would also say that being unfailingly polite is classy. I’ve seen a few work situations where one person was being belligerent and aggressive while the other remained level-headed, polite, and focussed on the issues. The calm, polite person came across as being immeasurably more classy and dignified than the rageaholic.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 9:25 AM on October 6, 2007


When they split, my sister-in-law's long term boyfriend (who had been present at many family activities for a few years), made the rounds of her family on his own to wish everyone farewell.

I was pretty impressed with it, and "classy" is exactly how I thought of it.
posted by Calibandage at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


- University profs who go out of their way to help you learn and make you feel like a colleague
- Generally, people who go beyond their job description to help others, even when there's no benefit to them...especially bus drivers who are helpful and polite regardless of the surly customers they deal with
- People who refuse to gossip
- Going out of your way to bring a shy/new person into the conversation/activity
posted by sarahkeebs at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


I always thought that classy was in and of itself sort of a weird backhanded compliment, like telling someone that the behavior they were exhibiting was somehow "above their station" and so was also sort of either an insult or said by people who were making class-based generalizations about other people. In college it became sort of a joke with us, saying that something was "classy" was actually the opposite of a compliment as in "this is something that someone from a lower class position would think was a mark of class but really it isn't" (yay liberal arts education overthinkery) so like driving a trans-am was the example we liked to use (this was in the 80s mind you)

In any case, whether there's truth to that or not, old fashioned etiquette is often thought of as classy, especially if you can employ it without putting someone else down. So the example that people use here -- thank you notes -- is perfect because it's just a social grace, not really a statusing move. If you have guests visit for a weekend in the winter and you have nice slippers for them to wear around the house when their boots are wet, that's classy. Anticipating needs or desires and finding a way to fulfill them without making a big deal about it [like SCDB's bus example] is how I see it in a non-ironic way.
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I disagree with jessamyn. I think of classy not as acting above their station, I think of it in this context as acting above *my* station. Treating me better than average, or what I would expect. It's easy to go post-Marxist and decry social delineations, but this is ideology and there is a real-world aspect to behaving differently and better than the average jerk. "Better" does not imply class superstructures, or at least it doesn't have to. This confusion has mainly to do with the metaphor of "station," which does have class structure implications, but if we dissolve that metaphor we can find ourselves rising above the lowest common denominator.

Yes, and the preposition "above" has poststructuralist complications as well, but you know what I mean.
posted by rhizome at 9:36 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


In college it became sort of a joke with us, saying that something was "classy" was actually the opposite of a compliment as in "this is something that someone from a lower class position would think was a mark of class but really it isn't" (yay liberal arts education overthinkery) so like driving a trans-am was the example we liked to use (this was in the 80s mind you).

I knew a guy who worked as a DJ at a strip club and lived in a rented room at a YMCA. He liked to show up for first dates in a rented limo. That, for me, has always epitomized "classy."
posted by jayder at 9:39 AM on October 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


Antarctic Explorer Lawrence Oates

After the loss of one man, Edgar Evans, Oates became severely frostbitten and weakened quicker than the others. His slower progress coupled with the unwillingness of his three remaining companions to leave him behind caused the party to fall behind schedule. Eventually Oates, recognising the need to sacrifice himself in order to give the others a chance of survival, deliberately left the tent to die in a blizzard, saying: "I am just going outside and may be some time".
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2007 [5 favorites]


A friend of mine had a pregnancy scare. Her boyfriend's immediate reaction was to offer full financial support in whatever way necessary, since he said she was dealing with emotional and physical stresses he couldn't understand. That was pretty classy.

Being classy goes beyond being polite. It is politeness delivered with tact and a consideration for another's feelings that's not just saying "please" and "thank you". The titles are groan-inducing and set off the sexism warning bells in my head, but to my surprise the books "How to Be a Gentleman" and "How to be a Lady" basically laid out exactly how to be the classiest person you could possibly be, no matter what gender is reading either book.
posted by schroedinger at 10:02 AM on October 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Polite, empathic, smart, and a good conversation partner without being condescending. If you walk away impressed, then that's class.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:07 AM on October 6, 2007


When someone returns a wallet they've found, cash and all, that's pretty classy.
posted by sculpin at 10:29 AM on October 6, 2007


Learning how to graciously take a compliment from someone is classy. So is learning how to give one. A lot of people are unable to do either very well.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I agree with miss lynnster. I was totally going to say when someone compliments you, say thank you. That's all you have to say and its classy. Well, by my standards. Giving the right compliment is classy. Helping without being asked- classy. Chivalry= classy. Walking away from a fight. Helping an old lady cross the street or carry her bags. Giving up seats. I guess it boils down to being socially conscious of what's going on around you and being the stranger or friend that makes a person's day easier or just a tiny bit better, and then poof! You're gone without needing a thank you. Now that's classy.
posted by smeater44 at 10:51 AM on October 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love the term "classy." To me, it DOES signify that there are classifications of better and worse people (classy people and non-classy people), and generally such an idea would offend me. But -- and maybe this is just the way the idea pings in my eccentric brain -- what I like about "classy" is that anyone who chooses to be "classy" CAN be "classy." A janitor who gives up his seat is classy. Also, a CEO who scratches his ass in public is classless. Class (in this sense) is egalitarian.

I'm sure the term itself has offensive (non-egalitarian) roots, but I don't believe that a word's history is somehow magically contained in that word. What matters (to everyone but the academic) is how the world is used in the vernacular.

I agree with everyone here who links class to things like apologizing, making things easier for someone else, etc. Class is being considerate (a) when you don't absolutely have to be and (b) without blowing your own trumpet about it.

In addition to this, I think class and grace are closely linked. Class is (amongst other things) working to make the world a more aesthetically pleasing place -- as-long-as this work involves your own behavior, not dictating behavior to others. So covering your mouth when you yawn is classy. Telling someone else to cover their mouth when they yawn in not classy.

Class is improving yourself for the benefit of those around you -- without calling attention to the fact that you're doing this. There's no meta to class.
posted by grumblebee at 11:02 AM on October 6, 2007 [19 favorites]


My partner of 14 years lived with a woman before he got involved with me. She sold her house to move in with him, and because of the way the market changed, didn't have the means to buy a new house when she moved out. He helped her with a down payment. I've always thought that was really classy.

One thing I see in common with all these examples is the idea of making other people comfortable or thinking of their needs. It's like Miss Manners always telling people that they shouldn't point it out when others violate etiquette or polite dining norms, or use the wrong fork or whatever--because it's all about making others feel welcomed, appreciated, and comfortable. It can be really small gestures like the way my ex's mother used to chat with me for a couple of minutes when she called to talk to him and I answered the phone.
posted by not that girl at 11:03 AM on October 6, 2007 [6 favorites]


send written thank you notes

give up your seat on the bus to pregnant/old/handicapped people

don't give in to the urge to participate in office gossip

admit it when you are wrong, and don't be petulant about it

give gifts without expecting a thank you
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:06 AM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


pinkies up!
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Handwritten thank-you notes

Hospitality - cleaning your house for visitors and having snacks/drinks on-hand for them

Not being loudly judgmental about other people (especially because you don't always know their circumstances)

Listening to other people and not making "Oh you're wrong here's why" the first thing you say after they finish talking. Ditto not attaching too much importance to proving other people wrong in conversation.
posted by cadge at 11:14 AM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Three things come to mind:

I met a cousin of Mr Kmennie's recently; we stayed at his house for a night in somewhat disorganised fashion -- on a road trip with a newborn. He, not a parent himself, got us good wine and busied himself taking photos of our baby with a very good camera. That's exactly the thing a new parent wants, but not many people know that. Which see jessamyn's 'Anticipating desires' note.

My grandmother didn't swear. Well. Once, I heard her snap out 'Damn!' on being told some notably bad news. My grandfather and I stood there shocked; I think we both sort of said 'Shit!' when she left. All those years of polite speech meant that 'Damn!' carried more weight than any string of obscenities could. Not swearing is classy, and if you don't swear, it's still classy when you do.

A neighbour of ours had to go away with a cat who wouldn't come home in time. We didn't know that; we just thought the cat was hanging around our house a lot. We fed her and gave her a little bed and so on. (Meanwhile, other neighbours who knew were looking for the cat...) Anyway, a little while after the neighbour got back and found out what her cat had done that week, we got a bag of homemade cookies, cat treats for our cats, and a thank-you note.
posted by kmennie at 11:46 AM on October 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


Some of the details have been changed to protect "the innocent".

Through a lot of hard work, perseverance, and a bit of luck, a certain gentleman had attained a level of professional stature that was, at the time, to be considered unusual and exceptional given his age and ethnicity. One day this man was having a casual lunchtime conversation near the high-profile high-rise office building where he worked. The person he was conversing with was younger but of the same ethnicity, and worked as a non-skilled laborer nearby.

During the conversation, both parties revealed what buildings they in. Since the gentleman-in-question's building was known to contain professional white collar workers of middle to high levels of compensation, the non-skilled laborer remarked, "Wow, you must be at least a (specific professional rank of some lower-echelon workers in the building). The gentleman replied simply, without a hint of sarcasm or condescension, "At least."

Given the apparent wide disparity between his work status and that of his lunchtime companion, the gentleman had opted not to brag about his own achievement when he could easily have stroked his own ego by doing so. I considered that an example of class.
posted by fuse theorem at 11:57 AM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


In any public seating situation, getting up for people older than you are or who have their arms full of groceries or children. In the grocery store, letting people ahead of you if they're more burdened than you are or if they have just one little thing to buy. Letting others go first at doors and elevators. When walking down the sidewalk with others, making room for oncoming pedestrians and never marching on side by side with your companions while others have to squeeze by. When driving, using turn signals well and so on.

That sort of everyday behavior is just common courtesy, nothing to be proud of, but the opposite behavior would be something you ought to be a bit ashamed of.
posted by pracowity at 12:12 PM on October 6, 2007


Behaving in a dignified manner and in a manner that supports the dignity of others is classy.

I used to work in a restaurant where every evening, this slightly disheveled, elderly man, would come in at exactly the same time and order a cup of tea and a bowl of ice cream. One evening, a young guy in a business suit, came in by himself, noticed the elderly man sitting alone and walked over and invited him to join him for dinner. He paid the elderly man's bill and the two spent over an hour talking and laughing like old friends. I always thought that this was a classy gesture.
posted by pluckysparrow at 12:31 PM on October 6, 2007 [15 favorites]


"If I'm a princess," she was saying, "if I'm a princess -- when they were poor and driven from their thrones -- they always shared -- with the populace -- if they met one poorer and hungrier than themselves. They always shared. Buns are a penny each. If it had been sixpence I could have eaten six. It won't be enough for either of us. But it will be better than nothing."
The children's book A Little Princess always epitomized grace and good manners to me.

Good manners is treating everyone you meet, from the richest to the poorest, with the same civility, kindness and courtesy. Good manners is remembering to treat everyone else like you would want to be treated. Good manners is ignoring bad manners on the part of other people. Good manners is being willing to admit you were wrong and being gracious about it.

I tend not to like the word 'classy' because for me it's used the same way jessamyn used it. But the behavior it describes is important, and those are the kinds of things I associate with good manners.
posted by winna at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


The restaurant regular knows and asks about what's going on with the restaurant hostesses' families and also the restaurant owner's family.

Someone who recognizes that the junior staff are the ones doing all the work and shows them appreciation.

Someone who treats people with power or money the same way they treat others.

Someone who takes more of the blame onto himself or herself: "No, I'm sorry, I didn't explain what I was looking for very well."

From The Omnivore's Dilemna: "... I checked out the shed full of state-of-the-art farm equipment and asked him what he thought about the [special, more expensive] corn he was planting... Billy thought the seed was the greatest. 'I'm getting 220 bushels an acre on that seed,' he boasted. 'How's that compare, George?' George owned he was getting something just south of two hundred, but he was too polite to say what he knew, which was that he was almost certainly clearing more money per acre growing less corn more cheaply."
posted by salvia at 1:31 PM on October 6, 2007


When you're a guest at a party it always struck my as being classy when you stayed after and helped clean up.

When you're an overnight visitor at someone's home it is classy to pick up after yourself and others, up to and including washing dishes and taking out the garbage.

You're making them feel lucky to know someone like you.
posted by ptm at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Nobody has really mentioned good table manners. Very few people exhibit good table manners these days and it's unfortunate. I believe that grace, respect and good manners will take you anywhere! That's classy!
posted by pearlybob at 1:45 PM on October 6, 2007


When I was about 18, my lame soon-to-be-ex boyfriend & I took a road trip to Mexico together. We were at dinner and he had clearly drank too many margaritas. We ordered our food and suddenly he turned to me and slurred, "How much money do you have on you?" I stopped and looked at him and said, "Why, how much money do you have?" He proceeded to get mad at me and I realized that he didn't have money for our dinners. I calmly said, "It's okay if you don't, just tell me and we'll cancel our orders." But he refused, yelling at me how dare I insult him and created a bit of a scene as I sat there wondering what the Hell to do and why I was dating such a loser.

Suddenly the waiter came over and said that the people at the next table had paid for our meals and hoped we would enjoy them. I was floored. I thanked the couple profusely and asked them their names. They told me their names didn't matter. I asked them for information so that i could send them money and pay them back. They simply made me promise to do the same for someone else someday. So I promised, and then they finished their meals and waved goodbye with a smile.

HUGE life lesson from that couple about class and graciousness. I have tried to do similar acts of unsolicited thoughtfulness many times in different forms, and it always makes me feel really good to keep that promise I made so long ago. I remember the first time was when I had a friend who was going through some bad financial times. She had wondered how she was going to make breakfast for her kids. I felt badly for her and I had a job at the time so I decided to leave a few bags of groceries on her doorstep. It just made me feel so good to do something nice for someone without needing acknowledgement.

Likewise, when you are on the receiving end of kindness, dignity and class are just as relevant. I vividly remember that particular friend complaining because the bags of free groceries that someone had left for her only included basic staples and how much it sucked that there was no Diet Coke.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:49 PM on October 6, 2007 [43 favorites]


miss lynnster, that was an awesome post -- a complete short story. Thank you. Having said that, if I'd been in your shoes at that restaurant, I would have been MORTIFIED by what that couple did. I would probably have fled. I'm not saying they were wrong. What they did was kind. But I think I would have been too embarrassed to accept such kindness. Maybe I need more class.
posted by grumblebee at 2:00 PM on October 6, 2007


I'm with jessamyn on the term itself. I know what you're getting at, but for me, the term "classy" is inherently not-classy. It's meant to connote quality, either in manners, appearance, material, or craftsmanship, but the truly classy, as it were, would never use the phrase without meaning it ironically. TransAms, sparkly cummerbunds-and-bowtie sets, elaborate nails, cement lion statues in front of your suburban home, etc. are classy. "Classy dame" is a not-uncommon construction that, I think, helps contextualize classiness.

One reason that you're finding sports-related stories is that good sportsmanship is synonymous with the kind of behavior you're looking for. Chivalrous, gentlemanly or ladylike, well-bred, good-mannered, polite, thoughtful, deferential ... these are terms I'd prefer over the somewhat loaded "classy." I don't have any specific stories for you—the ones others have provided are all excellent—but did want to share the connotations that the term has for me.
posted by mumkin at 2:04 PM on October 6, 2007


Oh, that's definitely another thing!!! When I stay at someone else's house, I always feel that I need to leave it the way I left it. If I'm sleeping on a pull out bed, when I leave to go home that couch is made up, the cushions are in place and the sheets are in the laundry hamper or in the washing machine. More often than not my friends ask me if I'd like to stay longer because they feel like I'm leaving too soon, which always makes me happy. (One of my friends' moms actually asked me if I was having a wild affair with someone because I was such an easy houseguest she barely noticed when I was in the building. Unfortunately I had to disappoint her and tell her my week was far less exciting than that.) My friends save me the cost of a hotel and I appreciate their hospitality and company so I try to have my presence as a house guest be as pleasant and drama-free as possible. And that feels classy to me.

It's just how my mom raised me. But that said, I'm sorry to say that more than half of my houseguests this year left my home with pretty much everything as it they had it before they packed their bags, though. Sheets, glasses, newspapers, couch cushions, whatever, all strewn around. Whatever mess they created left for me to clean up. And it always surprises me.

I used to believe that there were unwritten houseguest rules, but my mom was definitely wrong about that.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:07 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I knew a woman who had a part time maid and she found out through a friend who employed one of the maid's friends (long story) that the maid's husband had just left her with nothing and she had also lost another long time customer. So the woman made up an excuse to take her on full time ever though she didn't need it all and gave her a raise, I thought that was really classy. She didn't make the woman feel like she was charity and yet helped her out in a rough time.

I also think apologizing and accepting responsibility when you are wrong is very classy.
posted by whoaali at 2:10 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Having said that, if I'd been in your shoes at that restaurant, I would have been MORTIFIED by what that couple did. I would probably have fled.

Yeah, it was hard... and just like we're saying, it tested my own dignity to figure out how to handle the situation, especially being as young as I was. I was SO humiliated. But there I was stuck in a foreign country with this guy. We had one car so I couldn't leave him & I didn't want to be left there, and we obviously had no money for our food so I imagined the restaurant making us wash dishes forever or calling the Federales or something. I was terrified and panicking. And I had to realize at the time that I really had no choice but to thank them and accept the money. And then dump my boyfriend the minute we crossed the border into San Diego.

It was probably less than $20 that the couple spent to help me that day... and not only did it affect my future behavior, but I'm still talking about that nameless couple more than 20 years later. So that was $20 very very well spent.
posted by miss lynnster at 2:34 PM on October 6, 2007


but for me, the term "classy" is inherently not-classy.

It always makes me cringe a little. Classy is flashy. Most of the answers here would be better suited to a question such as, "What are some examples of courteous [or 'decent' or 'kind' or 'well-mannered' or the like] behavior in everyday life?"

Atticus Finch, the same in his house as he is on the public streets, is courteous and kind, not classy.
posted by pracowity at 2:38 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those of you who have a negative connotation of the word seem to be a bit confused about the term "classy". Everyone above who has pointed out the positive behaviors associated with being classy, is correct. Classy is NOT flashy, nor is it trying to appear above your class.
posted by lohmannn at 3:01 PM on October 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not speaking ill of others, even when they deserve it. Especially your exes.

When I was 18 I worked in a summer camp office with a few guys who were 22. I remember very vividly a time when one of them was on the phone to a camper's parents. I had a little crush on him and was clowning around, trying to get his attention while he was on the phone so we could share a little joke at the expense of the person he was talking to. He waved me off, not callously, but in a way that made it clear that I was acting like a child and he wasn't impressed by my antics. He went back to talking on the phone, giving proper attention to the person he was talking to, not making eye contact with me. It was a very small thing, but an indelible lesson in the contrast between the petty small-mindedness of being a teenager and the way a respectful adult behaves.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:13 PM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


The guy I'm seeing now is pretty much the classiest person I've ever met. Much more than myself, so I'm taking notes. He unfailingly, both with family, friends, and people he's just met, goes out of his way to make sure that he can help, in ways that don't call attention to himself but that just make things easier for the hostess or whoever. Beyond the standard 'bring wine and send a thank you note after and you're covered' he is just always aware of what's going on around him at social events, is there to lend a hand as needed, and never makes people feel like he's being put out.

I guess in terms of specific actions, he'll always change the sheets and put them in the wash when he's staying places, even with family, he makes copies of photos of group events and burns them to discs to hand out to people afterwards for those who didn't bring their cameras, he never lets someone feel stranded at a party. Treats all women with equal respect, no matter how old they are or what they look like. Listens well to stories, even the unending ones. Doesn't complain, and doesn't let other people's bad behavior ruin his day or the event. I think classy = gracious= courteous = putting other people's comfort (when it's appropriate,) before your own in a way that doesn't draw attn to yourself, because you honestly feel better knowing that the people around you are being taken care of. It's a selfless thing. I feel pretty strongly about it.
posted by np312 at 3:20 PM on October 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


Everyone above who has pointed out the positive behaviors associated with being classy, is correct. Classy is NOT flashy.

I'm with you in spirit, because I have positive associations with the word, but I don't buy your logic. The connection between a word and its meaning are arbitrary, subject to custom and person quirks. There's no set meaning of "class" -- just personal associations that TEND (due to people growing up in more or less the same culture) to converge. If people associate "classy" with flashy, they're not "wrong." What would "wrong" even mean in this context? Wrong according to what's in your dictionary?

I'm fairly convinced -- based on the annecdotal evidence in this thread -- that there are (at least) two common associations with the word: selfless, humble acts vs flashy courteousness.

Maybe these are generational. I'm in my 40s and tend to have a somewhat old-world attitude (maybe more like someone in his 60s). I like the word "class" and don't attach any ironic meaning to it (but I rarely attach an ironic meaning to anything). Maybe if I was a 20-something (30-something?), I'd view the word differently.
posted by grumblebee at 3:44 PM on October 6, 2007


He waved me off, not callously, but in a way that made it clear that I was acting like a child and he wasn't impressed by my antics.

There's an example of something I can't associate with class. I don't think the guy was wrong. In fact, I think he acted well under the circumstances, but I can't associate "classy" with any act -- however well meant -- that's intended to cause someone discomfort (or that the actor knows will likely cause someone discomfort, whether that's his intent or not). He surely knew that (even if you deserved it) that his actions would stand for a mild rebuke. He was tactful, perhaps. I define tact and class differently.
posted by grumblebee at 3:48 PM on October 6, 2007


People who give me a wave of thanks when I let them cut in in heavy car traffic are classy. People who fail to wave are cocksucking hoopleheads.
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:22 PM on October 6, 2007 [12 favorites]


I can't associate "classy" with any act -- however well meant -- that's intended to cause someone discomfort

Yeah, I think I misrepresented it in the way I told the story. His waving me off was a totally neutral and polite "hang on, just a minute" gesture - NOT intended to cause me to think "I'm acting like a child". It did have that effect, and a good thing too, but he didn't mean to be correcting me. He was just being polite to the person he was on the phone with, and as a byproduct I saw how impolite I was being.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:57 PM on October 6, 2007


Simply being on time, with no remark about it (in word or deed), and no evidence that you've purposefully arrived early, so as to be able to keep an appointment, or discussion of difficulties you had to overcome to arrive at the appointed hour, is pretty "classy," to me. If I meet someone for the first time as agreed, and they begin our conversation by telling me how long they took to get there, how long they've been waiting, or how hard they had it in transit, I make a mental note to excuse myself from their presence at the earliest opportunity, and then do so.

People who call me on their cellphone, 5 minutes before a previously confirmed appointment, to try to get me to wait 30 more minutes for them, because they're "running late" get no regard from me, ever. I never agree to wait, but I will re-schedule, once. That kind of exceedingly lame behavior has become so prevalent, that I've taken to turning off my cellphone as I leave my house, on the way to most local appointments. The drive is perhaps a bit safer, and I don't become aggravated with those who are so thoughtlessly rude and poor at simple planning as to live their lives this way.
posted by paulsc at 5:06 PM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


Not speaking ill of others, even when they deserve it. Especially your exes.

Yes, I think this captures something important --- a classy gesture is one where you behave with generosity and decency toward someone that you could rightly treat harshly. I remember one time, I was on vacation with my family, and we were having dinner at a restaurant and the waitress spilled a glass of wine all over my dad's shirt. He laughed it off and tried heroically to calm her horror at what she had done. I thought that was very classy of him.

Generally, I think, being generous toward service industry people is classy.

Similarly, in my profession (law), there are some classy lawyers who will not take advantage of a stupid mistake on the part of their opponents. It would be petty and small to take advantage of such an error to their own advantage. In an earlier time, such attitudes might be described as "gentlemanly."

Those of you who have a negative connotation of the word seem to be a bit confused about the term "classy". Everyone above who has pointed out the positive behaviors associated with being classy, is correct. Classy is NOT flashy, nor is it trying to appear above your class.

I actually think that the negative connotation is widespread. I have a friend who always laughs when something is referred to as "classy." I think the origin of this usage is that blue-collar people often use "classy" to designate their idea of luxury or opulence, in a way that is laughable to more privileged people. In this sense, Donald Trump's gaudy mansions might rightly be called "classy"; I am pretty sure that the fishnet-stocking lamp in "A Christmas Story" was praised by the dad as "classy." And I seem to recall that David Foster Wallace, in his essay on attending the Adult Video News Awards, described porn directors as "the type of people who use 'class' as an adjective."
posted by jayder at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


People who call me on their cellphone, 5 minutes before a previously confirmed appointment, to try to get me to wait 30 more minutes for them, because they're "running late" get no regard from me, ever. I never agree to wait, but I will re-schedule, once.

Actually, paulsc, this kind of attitude, where you're quick to condemn other people's behavior that annoys you, seems like the antithesis of "classy." A classy person would not be deeply aggrieved by someone being a little late. Agreeing to wait, without making a big deal about it, would be very classy.
posted by jayder at 5:36 PM on October 6, 2007 [7 favorites]


Well, in regards to the negative connotation of the word, this movie probably didn't help.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:20 PM on October 6, 2007


fuse theorem made me remember the classiest man I've ever known: the president of a college where I worked in my '20s. When he met someone new and they asked him what he did, he never said "I'm the president of That Little College," he said, "I work at That Little College." He never wanted people to feel that he was puffed up about his position.

I think a dose of humility is classy.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:12 PM on October 6, 2007 [4 favorites]


Behaving in a dignified manner and in a manner that supports the dignity of others is classy.

Spot on. Many of the examples people are giving (saying please and thank you, changing the sheets, etc.) are what I would call polite or courteous.

But in addition to courtesy, "classy" connotes sensitivity, not only to another's comfort, but to their self-respect and standing in the eyes of others.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2007


I forgot something. Remembering new people's names. So simple, and so classy.
posted by smeater44 at 10:18 PM on October 6, 2007


Kenny is a film you might like, full of examples of class from a blue-collar working joe. It's also a good movie :)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:24 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Keeping a tidy house, and perhaps even more importantly, a clean bathroom and kitchen. Yes, especially when you know you're going to have guests, but not only. Few things make me as uncomfortable as needing to use the bathroom while visiting a friend and not wanting to for fear that I'll need to pick pubic hairs off the toilet seat or wipe toothpaste spit off the spigot handles to wash my hands.

I resent deeply the idea that people see the term "classy" as being ironic, meant to represent flashy and shallow ostentatious displays of false courtesy. I find it offensive, quite frankly. It seems nothing more than a not very clever way of excusing yourself for not displaying class by making class derogatory, a thing to be mocked and not aspired to. We have plenty of terms for idiocy, rudeness, and shallow, tactless, graceless behavior. Please do not appropriate positive terms to serve your own classless desire to remain on your backside and make fun of those who -do- make an effort, whether worthy in your (obviously superior) eyes or not.
posted by po at 8:22 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Please do not appropriate positive terms to serve your own classless desire to remain on your backside and make fun of those who -do- make an effort, whether worthy in your (obviously superior) eyes or not.

Someone may display nobility, generosity, and grace in their behavior, and still see the word "classy" as carrying connotations of empty show, tasteless ostentation, and pathetic social climbing. So your accusation that those who define it differently than you do so because they are lazy, lacks the generosity and courtesy that you believe the word denotes.

In sum, it is not classy of you to impugn the motives of people who define a word differently than you do.
posted by jayder at 9:23 AM on October 7, 2007


I resent deeply the idea that people see the term "classy" as being ironic, meant to represent flashy and shallow ostentatious displays of false courtesy. I find it offensive, quite frankly. It seems nothing more than a not very clever way of excusing yourself for not displaying class by making class derogatory, a thing to be mocked and not aspired to.

I may have been unclear, above. My point was that there is classy behavior of the sort we are talking about, and then there is classy as an adjective, applying to a thing that someone thinks is classy which other people think is not, often something flashy and ostentatious, etc. It's this second sense that is the way I pretty much learned the word originally, to refer to things. I didn't make it up. Driving a classy Trans-Am was my example, the limo example is better. In this sense, where an item is called classy, is where it's somewhat ironic.

It's confusing, however, because there is a lot of overlap between these terms, but it's fairly clear that the OP is asking about classy actions not classy items. That said, you can resent how people see and use the word all you want, but that doesn't mean it doesn't mean that to some people in some circumstances. And it's apples and oranges whether people who see class connotations with the word classy in some senses do or do not display the charm and graces deonted by the word in other senses.
posted by jessamyn at 1:19 PM on October 7, 2007


Yes, I'm sorry, po, but I believe you've completely misconstrued me. I certainly didn't mean that one shouldn't aspire to courtesy and social grace... quite the opposite. I suggested chivalrous, gentlemanly or ladylike, well-bred, good-mannered, polite, thoughtful and deferential as adjectives describing laudable behavior, and I think we're in agreement there. It's just that using the term "classy" is terribly gauche—déclassé, in fact—by my lights. We'll have to agree to disagree on word choice.
posted by mumkin at 1:42 PM on October 7, 2007


I tend not to like the word 'classy' because for me it's used the same way jessamyn used it. But the behavior it describes is important, and those are the kinds of things I associate with good manners.

Chivalrous, gentlemanly or ladylike, well-bred, good-mannered, polite, thoughtful, deferential ... these are terms I'd prefer over the somewhat loaded "classy."

I feel much like winna, mumkin and Jessamyn on this subject. lohmann said "Those of you who have a negative connotation of the word seem to be a bit confused about the term 'classy'" ...but that doesn't make much sense to me -- what do you think the etymology of the word is?

I value good manners, but I hate the term "classy" because I think it implies that one should aspire to a particular social class, and of course that would be upper-class or high-class; conversely, lower-class is shameful or undesireable. "Classy" is fraught with so much baggage... as if being rich automatically made one a kind, elegant person. It's like the phrase "white trash": what purpose does the modifier serve?

Words like hospitable, dignified, considerate -- those work just fine. I prefer adjectives that don't come pre-loaded with social judgment.
posted by pineapple at 3:43 PM on October 7, 2007


pineapple, I completely agree with you about the etymology, but I'm skeptical about your assumption that word-origins are, for most speakers, necessarily packed into current usage. I'm sure this differs from word to word.

I know that when I use "class" as defined in this thread, social class doesn't even remotely enter my head. I supposed you could argue that it enters my head subconsciously, but you'd have a hard time proving that. If I say, "the homeless man showed a lot of class when he offered his seat to the pregnant woman," I don't get a feeling of paradox or wordplay or even slight tension. It doesn't feel somehow more right to say "the Duke was classy" than "the beggar was classy."

To me.

For you, classy may fire different neurons. That's cool. I'm just troubled by this tendency to turn a nuanced subject into a binary one: either etymology matters or it doesn't. Surely the truth depends on the individual word and the individual speaker.
posted by grumblebee at 1:35 PM on October 8, 2007


grumblebee, I totally agree with you. For me, the etymology matters, and for another person it might not. I don't believe that I have a binary take on this topic, and I'm sorry if that conveyed in my comment.

It doesn't feel somehow more right to say "the Duke was classy" than "the beggar was classy."

I don't think either one is right, was the point I might not have got across. To attribute someone with being classy is attributing them with belonging to some class (unless you want to go all the way and say someone acted "high-class" or "upper-class.") It feels to me like saying a person has lots of qualities. It doesn't really mean anything.

I don't believe that everyone who uses the word "classy" is somehow classist or being judgmental. That the word has become a synonym for "acted elegantly or with consideration for others" is a product of lazy usage across society, and we know that happens all the time in language and it's not the end of the world.

Still, as we've seen in this thread, the number of people who ascribe negative meaning to "classy" isn't insignificant.

So, I believe that there are better word choices out there that convey the same thing, and that it's better to choose words that convey one's exact intent rather than ones that might confuse a listener into thinking that you were, in fact, mocking the homeless man for giving up his seat.
posted by pineapple at 2:36 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


To all: A great discussion all around. Classy, even.
posted by lohmannn at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2007


[a few comments removed - grumblebee, pineapple, you have emails in profiles, feel free to take the side discussion there]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2007


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