Etiquette in Games and Sports: 1921

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Why The World Plays

All the world loves to play. In childhood, it is the very language of life. In youth, it vies with the sterner business of young manhood or womanhood. When we are older and the days of childhood are but a fading memory, we still have some "hobby" that offers recreation from our business and social duties. It may be golf or tennis or billiards; but it is play--and it is a relaxation.

It is a fundamental law of nature that we shall play in proportion to the amount of work we do. The inevitable "tired business man" finds incentive in the thought of a brisk game of golf after closing hours. The busy hostess looks forward to the afternoon that she will be able to
devote exclusively to tennis. The man or woman who does not "play" is missing one of the keenest pleasures of life.

But there is an etiquette of sport and games, just as there is an etiquette of the ballroom and dinner table. One must know how to conduct oneself on the golf links and at the chess table, just as one must know how to conduct oneself at dinner or at the opera. And in one's play, one must remember that touching little fable of the frogs who were stoned by boys, in which the poor little creatures cried, "What is play to you is death to us." Be kind, unselfish and fair. Do not sacrifice, in the exciting joyousness of the game, the little courtesies of social life. Remember Burns' pretty bit of verse--we cannot resist the temptation of printing it here:

 "Pleasures are like poppies spread, You seize the flower, its bloom is shed; Or, like the snowfall on the river, A moment white, then
melts forever."

Fair Play

Nothing so quickly betrays a person as unfairness in games. It hardly seems necessary to mention it, to caution anyone against it. Yet so many people are prone to believe that the courtesies we observe in social life, may be entirely forgotten in the world of sport and pleasure--and that with them, we may forget our scruples. "Cheating" is a harsh word and we do not want to use it. But what other word can be used to describe unfairness, to describe selfish discourtesies?

"Fair play is a jewel." This proverb has been handed down to us among other old sayings of the Danish, and Denmark loves its games and sports as few other countries do. It was here that the game of Bridge first had its inception. It was here that the game of "Boston" first won prominence. Many of the games and sports practiced in America to-day had their origin in Denmark. And it was that country that gave to us the golden proverb, "Fair play is a jewel."

We could fill a complete volume on the ethics of sport, but it is not necessary to elaborate on the subject in a book of etiquette. When you are on the tennis courts or at the billiard tables remember only to observe the same good manners and courtesies that characterize your social life--and you will play fair.

Indoor Games

Bridge and chess have long been the boon of puzzled hostesses. These indoor games offer a wealth of interest and enjoyment to visiting guests, and in social circles they are frequently resorted to, to make an afternoon or evening pass pleasantly.

Every woman who ever invites people to her home should know the etiquette of indoor games. It is also necessary that she herself know how to play the games as it will be expected that she join her guests. At a recent silver wedding the host and hostess evolved the novel idea of spending the evening playing bridge with the guests and offering silver prizes to the winners. Every one enjoyed the evening, and it saved the hostess the trouble of worrying about providing satisfactory entertainment.

Some women who enjoy indoor games form clubs for the purpose of devoting one or more afternoons or evenings a week to the favored game. There are numerous chess and bridge clubs that meet in private homes or in club-rooms rented for the purpose. The usual method is to meet at the home of one of the members, rotating each week so that each member has her turn at being hostess.


There is something romantic, something strangely fanciful in the old game of chess. Its origin is forgotten in a dim past--a past around which is woven historical tales of kings and queens, interesting anecdotes of ancient sports and pleasures. There is perhaps no indoor game as old and as beloved. [To inspire interest in certain games, and to give renewed zest to those who have already made one of these games a hobby, it was considered worth-while to give in these chapters the interesting facts regarding the origin of some of our popular modern games. We are indebted to Paul Mouckton, whose splendid book, "Pastimes is Times Past"
ha helped us to make this possible.]

Chess is also one of the most universal of games. In slightly altered form, it is played in almost every country. Games resembling chess are found even in uncivilized countries. To know the rudiments of the game, is to be able to enter into at least one sport when traveling in other countries.

We trace the origin of chess to the ancient Sanscrit Indians. At that time it was known as "chatauranga." From this word, the word "shatrang" was evolved, developing slowly into our modern word "chess." It was in the sixteenth century that the surface of the chess-board was chequered black and white. Just as the capture of a king by enemies meant the terminating of his rule of the kingdom in those days, the capture of the "king" on the chess-board to-day terminates the game.

It is interesting to note that the different "pieces" used in the game of chess all have their origin in ancient history. The game is one of the most interesting in existence, and the man or woman who does not already know how to play it, should learn how as soon as possible. There are numerous authorities who are only too glad to teach it.

The hostess who plans a chess-party for her guests should arrange a sufficient number of small tables in the drawing-or reception-room. Usually coffee and wafers are served as refreshment in the afternoon; but if the party is held in the evening, it usually terminates in a cold midnight supper.


Bridge is one of our most popular card-games--particularly so among women. It is also one of the most interesting indoor games ever
invented, and therefore usually adopted by the hostess who wishes to entertain her guests for the afternoon or evening.

England greeted the origin of bridge, about fifty years ago, with great delight. The game speedily became one of the most popular ones in social circles. Perhaps if we exclude whist, bridge has taken a greater hold upon the popular imagination than any other card-game ever invented.

The origin of the word "bridge" itself is buried in the mists of uncertainty. Some say that it comes from the Tartar word "birintch"
which means "town-crier." Others contend that it comes from the Russian word "biritch" meaning Russian whist. But whatever its origin, the word means a game of such utter interest and delight, that it should be well understood and frequently indulged in by hostesses and their guests.

There are two kinds of bridge; one, known as Auction Bridge is for three players. Ordinary bridge is for four players. In the former game, one depends largely upon luck. But skill is a very necessary requisite to the one who wishes to play and win in ordinary bridge. Writers on games declare that Auction Bridge is more of a "gambling" game than ordinary bridge. But hostesses who do not favor "gambling" in any form, had better choose chess as their popular game, for it is the only game from which the element of chance is entirely absent. But bridge, perhaps by virtue of its very element of chance, is to-day one of the most popular
indoor games.

The hostess who invites friends to a bridge-party should provide sufficient card tables for the purpose. If the party consists entirely
of ladies, it is usually held in the afternoon and light refreshments are served. If men join the party it is usually held in the evening and terminates in a midnight supper.

Billiards and Croquet

There seems to be some very intimate connection between croquet and billiards. But while croquet is a very old game and now rapidly lapsing into disuse, billiards is a comparatively new one enjoying very wide popularity. The fact that small billiard tables are being made to fit conveniently into the drawing-room at home, proves that the modern host and hostess recognize the popularity of the game. Croquet, we find from studying the history of games, was played in the thirteenth century. Billiards, which we speak of as being "comparatively new," was known in the seventeenth century, for does not Shakespeare have Cleopatra say in Anthony's temporary absence:

"Let us to billiards: Come, Charmian."

Billiards is a game that lends itself to betting. While this may be permissible in a public billiard place, it is not good form in a private
home where the hostess invites a few friends to enjoy the game with her. She should not invite many people unless she has several tables to place at their disposal.

Croquet is played on the lawn. Hidden in the forgotten origin of billiards, there must be some connection between the green lawn of
croquet and the green baize cloth of the billiard table. Croquet is played with mallets and balls, very much on the same order as the game of billiards.

The game of croquet is derived from the same source as hockey. The old French word "hoquet," meaning a "crooked stick" has very much the same meaning as the word "croquet." Both are excellent outdoor sports that guests at a house party will find enjoyable and interesting.

One hostess we know, who is a billiard enthusiast, has six tables in her "billiard room," as she calls it, where she entertains several guests almost every afternoon. On the wall is a large picture showing two stately old gentlemen playing a game of billiards, and beneath it in bold hand lettering, the following bit of verse from Cotton's book, "The  Complete Gamester":

Billiards from Spain at first derived its name, Both an ingenious and a cleanly game. One gamester leads (the table green as grass) And each like warriors, strive to gain the Pass.

Outdoor Games

At garden parties, house parties, and lawn parties, there is always the need for interesting, amusing games that will afford entertainment for the guests. The hostess who knows the various games that are popular among the younger and older sets, will be able to spend many jolly, pleasant mornings and afternoons with her guests.

Not only for the hostess and her guest, but for every man or woman who loves games and sports, who enjoys being outdoors, there are sports that are as enjoyable as they are health-building. There can be nothing more delightful, on a Saturday afternoon, than to go out on the links and enjoy a good game of golf. And there can be nothing more invigorating to the tired hostess than a brisk game of lawn tennis on a sunny afternoon.

To the splendid outdoor games of America, our young women owe their lithe, graceful bodies and their glowing good health; and our young men owe their well-knit forms and muscular strength. No appeal can be too strong in encouraging people to indulge more freely in outdoor sports--and especially people who spend a great deal of their time in businesses that confine them to offices.

Lawn Tennis

Tennis is always popular and always interesting.

Those who love the game will enjoy a bit of the history of its origin and of its development in recent years. It is not a new game. The exact date of its origin is not known, and perhaps never will be, but we do know that it was imported into England from France at a very early date. Originally it was called "palm play" because the palm was used to cast the ball to the other side. And instead of the net, a mud-wall was used to separate the two sides.

The game of tennis flourished in the time of Joan of Arc, for we find her namesake, a certain Jean Margot, born in 1421, called the "Amazon of medieval tennis" by Paul Mouckton in his book, "Pastimes in Times Past."

He tells us also that she could play ball better than any man in France.

In the fifteenth century, tennis fell into disrepute because of the large amount of betting. But gradually, with the passing of the years and the development of the tennis courts, it once more came into its own, and soon we find that it had become so popular and fashionable that it threatened to eclipse even cricket, England's most popular outdoor game. Then once again it lapses into neglect, not to return to the lawns and courts again until 1874. Since that year, Lawn Tennis has steadily risen to the ranks of the most favored social game in America and England. In the past few years changes and improvements have been made and as the
game now stands it is truly the "king of games"-as Major Wingfield described it more than two decades ago.

The hostess who invites friends to a tennis game should be sure that her courts are in good condition. It is her duty to supply the net, balls and racquets, although some enthusiasts prefer using their own racquets. Whether or not the hostess joins in the games herself, depends entirely upon her personal preference, and upon convenience. Usually, however, she is expected to play at least one set.


The fact that Pepys, in his well-known diary, tells us that he saw the Duke of York playing golf (known then as Paille-Maille) is sufficient evidence of the antiquity of the game. It is of Scotch origin, being played in the Lowlands as early as 1300. The very words "caddie," "links" and "tee" are Scotch. "Caddie" is another word for cad, but the meaning of that word has changed considerably with the passing of the centuries. "Link" means "a bend by the river bank,"' but literally means a "ridge of
land." "Tee" means a "mark on the ground."

It seems that golfing has some strange charm from which there is no escaping once one has experienced it. To play golf and to learn its fascination, is to love it always and be unable to forsake it. James I and Prince Henry his son, were ardent golfers. Charles I was also a lover of golf, and it is related that the news of the Irish Rebellion in 1642 was brought to him while he was playing at the Links at Leith. Sir John Foulis, Earl John of Montrose, Duncan Forbes and the Duke of Hamilton are other notables of history, known to have been addicted to the game.

In 1754 a Golf Club was founded in England, pledging themselves to compete each year for a silver cup. In 1863 another Royal Golf Club was founded of which the Prince of Wales was elected Captain. The minutes and records of this club reveal many interesting, and oft times amusing, customs that presaged the very customs practiced by golf-lovers to-day.

One reason why golf is so popular is that it is a sport in which old and young can join on an equal footing. In this manner it is unlike hockey or other similar games, where strength and training are essential. But one must not have the impression that golf can be played once or twice, and then known and understood thoroughly. It is the kind of game that must be played enthusiastically and constantly; and gradually one becomes conscious of a fascination that can hardly be found in any other game or sport.

There is a distinct etiquette of the links that should be known by the hostess who plans a golfing party, and also by everyone who plays the game. Courtesy is one of the unwritten laws of the links. It is considered an unpardonable sin to speak or move when watching another player make a drive. It is also unpardonable to attempt to play through the game of persons who are ahead on the links.

Some Important Rules About Golf

In teeing-off, one should be quite sure that one's immediate predecessors from the tee are at least two shots in advance. Otherwise there is danger of injuring other players; and there is also the confusion of driving balls among those of near-by players. If, however, a ball is driven into the space of greensward where another player is concentrating upon his ball an apology should be made.

Sometimes skillful and rapid players find their progress over the links retarded by players who are slow and inaccurate. These slow players may be new at the game, or they may prefer to play slowly. At any rate, it is good form for the rapid players to request that they be permitted to play through ahead of the others; or it is still better for the slow players themselves, when they see that they are retarding others, to volunteer stepping aside while the others play through. A courtesy of this kind requires cordial thanks.

Putting is a delicate and difficult operation upon which the entire success of the game rests. Spectators must keep this in mind when they are on the links, and they must not stand so close to the player that they will interfere with his concentration. It is extremely bad form to talk, whisper or shuffle about while a player is putting, and those who do so are revealing their lack of courtesy and of the knowledge of the correct etiquette of sport.


We feel that a word about football is necessary, not only because it is one of the most popular American sports, but because men and women alike enjoy watching the game. At the Yale Bowl, where some of the most spectacular football games are played--and won--thousands of men and women from all over the United States gather every year.

Like all other ball games, football is based on many other games that had their origin in medieval times. It was only after the game of kicking the ball had been introduced in England, that it became a distinct sport known as football. Since then it has flourished and developed, until to-day it is as popular as tennis, hockey, baseball and golf.

Football is a strenuous game. In England it was confined largely to boys and young men. Even in America elderly men never play the game, but that is no reason why they cannot watch and enjoy it.

There can be no etiquette prescribed for the players in a football game beyond that incorporated in the rules of the game and in the general laws of good sportsmanship. But the people who are watching the game must observe a certain good conduct, if they wish to be considered entirely cultured. For instance, even though the game becomes very exciting, it is bad form to stand up on the seats and shout words of encouragement to the players. Yet how many, who claim to be entirely well-bred, do this
very thing!

Of course it is permissible to cheer; but it must be remembered that there are correct and incorrect ways of cheering. Noise is noise even in the grandstand, and your loud cheering is very likely to annoy the people around you. A brief hand-clapping is sufficient applause for a good play or even for a victory. It is not necessary to be boisterous. And this holds true of the game of baseball also, when loud cheering serves only to create confusion and disorder.

The well-mannered person is known by his or her calm conduct and gentle manners whether it be in the ballroom or at the football game.

Automobile Etiquette

With automobile enjoying its present universal popularity, it is necessary to add a few paragraphs here regarding the correct automobile etiquette. For there is an etiquette of driving, and a very definite etiquette that must be followed by all who wish to be well-bred.

First there are the rules by which the driver of the car must be governed. In busy city streets, where there are no traffic regulations
to govern the reckless driver, one should drive slowly and cautiously. It is time enough to drive speedily when the open roads of the country are reached. But it is inconsiderate and selfish to speed one's car along streets where children are likely to dash unexpectedly in front of the car or where pedestrians are in danger of being thrown down.

A very uncourteous and unkind habit is to sound one's horn wildly, for no other reason than to frighten less fortunate people who have to walk. The horn on the car should be used only to warn people out of the road, or when turning a dangerous corner. It should never be used to signal to a person that the car is waiting outside for her.

Care should be exercised in the seating arrangement. The courteous host and hostess take the seats in the center, leaving those on the outside for their guests. If the host is driving, the front seat at his side is a place of honor and should be given to a favored guest.

The people inside the car also have some rules of good conduct to observe. It is bad form to stand up in the car, to sing or shout, or to be in any way boisterous. Automobile parties often speed along country roads shouting at the top of their voices for no other reason than to attract attention--to be noticed. The very first rule of good conduct tells us that this is utterly ill-bred.

It hardly seems necessary to warn the people who are out motoring, not to throw refuse from the car on to the road. Yet we often see paper bags and cigarette boxes hurtling through the air in the wake of some speeding car. This is as bad form as dropping a match-stick on the polished drawing-room floor of one's hostess or home.

Automobile Parties

Some hostesses plan motor trips for their guests. If it is to be a long trip, requiring an over-night stop at a hotel, the invitations must state clearly, but tactfully, whether they are to be guests throughout the trip, or only while in the motor. Ordinarily, the host and hostess pay all expenses incurred while on the trip.

Gentlemen do not enter the car until the ladies have been comfortably seated. Neither do they smoke in the car without asking permission to do so. A driver, whether he be the host himself or a hired chauffeur, should be sure that all the guests are comfortably seated before starting. And he should drive slowly to prevent the uncomfortable jolting that usually results when a car is driven at a great speed.

Hostesses often provide linen dusters and goggles for those of their guests who desire them. It is wise, also, to include a few motor
blankets, in case the weather changes and the guests become chilly. A considerate host, or hostess, will see that the wind-shield, top and side-curtains are adjusted to the entire comfort of all the occupants of the car.

The dress for an automobile party is a sports suit of some serviceable material that will not show dust readily. The hat should be a small one that will not interfere with the wearer's comfort. In place of a suit one may wear a one-piece dress and a coat but one must never wear light or flimsy materials. If there is to be an overnight stop and one wishes to wear a dinner gown she must have it made of a stuff that will not wrinkle easily or she must be able to make arrangements to have it pressed.

When the car stops and the guests descend, the gentlemen should leave first and help the ladies to descend. If the party stops for
refreshments, the chauffeur must not be forgotten. It is a slight that is as unforgivable and discourteous as omitting to serve a guest in one's dining-room. The chauffeur is as much entitled to courtesy as the other members of the party. Of course he does not expect to join the party at their table, nor does he care to eat with the servants of the hotel. The wisest plan is for him to be served in the regular dining-room of the hotel, but at another table except when the hotel has special arrangements to meet this condition.

It is always necessary to take the guests on an automobile party back to the place where they started from unless it is distinctly understood from the beginning that some other plan is to be pursued. When planning a motor party consisting of two or more cars, the hostess should be sure to arrange her guests so that only congenial people will be in each car. It is never good form to crowd a car with more people than it can hold comfortably, except in an emergency.

"Careful driving" should be the watchword of everyone who owns a motor. Remember that the streets were not created merely for the owner of the automobile, but for the pedestrian as well.


Horse-back riding is one of the favorite outdoor sports of men and women. Which is as it should be, for not only is it excellent for poise and grace, but it is splendid for the health.

A gentleman, when riding with a woman, assists her to mount and dismount. This is true even though a groom accompanies them. In assisting a lady to mount her horse, the gentleman first takes the reins, places them in her hand and then offers his right hand as a step on which to place her foot, unless she prefers to slip her foot in the stirrup and spring up to the saddle unassisted. In this case, it is necessary for him only to hold the horse's head, and to give her the reins when she is comfortably seated in the saddle. He does not mount his own horse until she is mounted and on her way.

It is the privilege of the woman rider to set the pace. The gentleman follows at her side or slightly behind. He goes ahead, however, to open gates or lower fences that are too dangerous for her to jump. In dismounting, he again offers his aid, holding her horse and offering his hand if it is necessary to assist her. The lady dismounts on the left side.

At a hunt, a gentleman must sacrifice a great deal of the sport of the chase if there is a woman in the party under his care. He must ride very close to her, taking the easiest way and watching out for her comfort. It is poor form, however, for any woman to follow the hounds in a chase unless she is an accomplished rider. Otherwise she is merely a hindrance to the rest of the party, and especially to the man who is accompanying her.

Be kind to your horse. Do not exhaust it. Do not force it to climb steep hills. Be careful of how you use your spurs. And try to remember that good old proverb, "The best feed of a horse is his master's eye."

Even in the most conservative communities to-day women wear breeches instead of the heavy skirts of a short time back. The cut depends upon the prevailing fashion but the habit should never be of flashing material.


The etiquette of the beach has not yet been settled and the chief point of dispute is the way a woman should dress. It is absurd for her to wear a suit that will hamper her movements in the water but it is even worse for her to wear a skimpy garment that makes her the observed of all observers as she parades up and down the beach. There is no set rule as to what kind of suit one should wear for one person can wear a thing that makes another ridiculous if not actually vulgar. A well-bred woman is her own best guide and she will no more offend against modesty at the beach than she will in the drawing-room.

Sports Clothes In General

Comfort and style should be attractively combined in sports clothes with the emphasis on comfort. Practicability should never be sacrificed to fashion, and however beautiful they may be to look at, an automobile coat that cannot stand dust, a bathing suit that cannot stand water and a hiking outfit that cannot stand wear are merely ridiculous. There are three questions that the man or woman should first ask themselves before buying a sports outfit. First, Is it comfortable? Next, Is it practical? And last, Is it pleasing?


Website: The History
Article Name: Etiquette in Games and Sports: 1921
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Book of Etiquette Volume I and II, Lillian Eichler; Nelson Doubleday, Inc. Oyster Bay, N.Y. (1921)
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