When teaching dining etiquette, I am amazed to find how many people aren’t sure where to place the knife, fork and spoon, and which bread plate is theirs especially at a crowded table.
One of the best tricks for knowing which bread plate is yours is the “b” and “d” hint. On each hand, make a circle by touching the tip of your thumb to the tip of your forefinger. Then straighten out the remaining fingers on each hand. As you look down at your hands, your left hand will look like a small letter “b” and your right hand will look like a small letter “d.” The “b”—that’s your left hand—stands for bread, meaning your bread plate is on the left side of the place setting. The “d”—that’s your right hand—stands for drinks, which means your drinks (wine, water, or any other beverage) are on the right side of your place setting.
And in case “b” and “d” slip your mind, you can always remember BMW instead. “B” stands for bread, which is to the left of “M” which stands for your meal or the plate. “W” represents water, or drinks, found on the right side of the plate Left to right: Bread-Meal-Water, aka BMW.
So, what about FOrKS? FOrKS is a mnemonic that defines the position of the utensils in a place setting. Left to right, start with the “F” which stands for forks, and next comes the “O” which symbolizes the plate. The small “r” tells you that everything that follows goes to the right of the plate. “K” is for knives and they are set just to the right of the plate. Finally, “S” is for spoons and they are set to the right of the knives. Forks, Plate, Knives, Spoons: FOrKS.
Use these simple tricks to take the guesswork out of setting or decoding a table. Better yet, teach your kids, and it’s one less dinnertime chore on your plate.
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About the author
Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."