Pinker quotes the late Medieval/Early Modern scholar and humanist (and all round nice guy) Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536). Erasmus wrote a work called De civilitate morum puerilium (On Civility and Good Manners in Youth). The word puerilium, though it can refer to children, can also mean “youths”. Once gets the sense that the book was directed not just at teenagers but at young men – knights and other youth who were entering royal courts and polite society at this period.
Erasmus’s sage advice for these gallant young knights:
“Don’t foul the staircases, corridors, closets, or wall hangings with urine or other filth. • Don’t relieve yourself in front of ladies, or before doors or windows of court chambers. • Don’t slide back and forth on your chair as if you’re trying to pass gas. • Don’t touch your private parts under your clothes with your bare hands. • Don’t greet someone while they are urinating or defecating. • Don’t make noise when you pass gas. • Don’t undo your clothes in front of other people in preparation for defecating, or do them up afterwards. • When you share a bed with someone in an inn, don’t lie so close to him that you touch him, and don’t put your legs between his. • If you come across something disgusting in the sheet, don’t turn to your companion and point it out to him, or hold up the stinking thing for the other to smell and say ‘I should like to know how much that stinks.’” (Pinker 2011: 69)OK, if you haven’t burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter by now … well, I’m disappointed.
Pinker, Steven. 2011. The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. Viking, New York, NY.