Taarof


There is a social principle in Iran called taarof, it is the concept that describes the practice of politeness through linguistic indirectness and insincerity.

In Iran, people deal with the concept of honesty in a different way than most Western cultures in which directness and bluntness are, to a large extent, accepted and even encouraged communicative principles.

In the context of taarof, Iranians are expected to give false praises and insincere promises. Not out of deviousness, but out of the sociocultural expectation to tell people what they want to hear out of politeness, to avoid conflict, or to offer hope when there is none.

Examples of common taarof situations include: people imploring others to go through a door first; hosts insisting that they do not want customers to pay for dinner; dinner partners refusing to let others share in the cost of a meal; hostesses serving food even though their guests claim they are full; and people being invited to dinner when the host does not really want their company.

“Symbolism and vagueness are inherent in our language. […] Taarof is a sign of respect, even if we don’t mean it.” – Nasser Hadian

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On Medieval Etiquette


‘A certain robustness was needed in an environment where good manners was often just a question of not picking your nose in public. A medieval guide to etiquette warns: don’t scratch yourself or look for fleas in your breaches or on your chest; don’t snap your fingers; don’t comb your hair, clean your fingers or take your shoes off in the presence of lords or ladies. Messengers arriving at a house removed their weapons, gloves and caps before entering – though they were permitted to keep their caps on if they were bald. The guide also recommends not urinating in the hall – unless you happen to be the head of the household.’

– Jones. T., Ereira. A. 2004. Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives London, Great Britain: BBC Books (2005) p. 42

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