14.49: Customs and Mores

Your Hosts: Brandon, Dan, Howard, and Mahtab

In this episode we discuss how our customs and mores govern our own real-world interactions, and how our understanding of these interactions can be applied to our worldbuilding.

Credits: This episode was recorded by Dan Thompson, and mastered by Alex Jackson.


Take a cultural quirk or more that is weird and/or annoying to you. Extrapolate that into an entire culture, a full society of interconnected mores which make sense, and with which you’d be extremely uncomfortable.

The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge, narrated by Charlotte Wright

7 thoughts on “14.49: Customs and Mores”

  1. Shaking hands didn’t come as a cast system. From all of my research, that came later, after it was already in practice. From what I have researched, it primarily comes from the Roman era and they would clasp forearms verifying that there wasn’t a hidden blade resting there, and then they would shake their clasped grip potentially dislodging any blades hidden higher up on the arm. This was done in the courts primarily also.

  2. Another thing is that even within a single culture, not everyone agrees. For instance, Western countries mostly agree on public nudity being taboo, but there’s debate on public breastfeeding.

  3. The Beehive trio, Brandon, Dan, and Howard, met with our Canadian writer, Mahtab, to talk about customs and mores, how we interact and do things in a culture. They shook hands, and talked about child widows on the banks of the river Ganges, Thimithi firewalking, vulgar rhythms in Mexico, gourds for clothing, and open containers and paper bags for alcohol before looking at using customs in fiction. One or two details, the norm and breaking it, familiarity bias, and helping readers think about things… There’s a lot of thoughtful stuff you can read about in the transcript available now in the archives.

  4. Trying to remember what book Brandon used “y’all” in.

    Customs also allow for mistrust. Babylon 5 used the misunderstanding of open gun ports to be a trigger for war in the past.

    In multiple Native American cultures, the younger person is not supposed to make eye contact with elders, as a sign on respect. But authority figures from the white American cultures, see the lack of eye contact as disrespectful.

    1. There’s a lot of cultures that have that. As an example, the movie ‘Grand Torino’ showcased that as a problem between Clint Eastwood’s character and the Hmong teenager next door.

  5. Shaking hands, according to all research I have ever seen, is believed to have started as a means of showing you were unarmed (in your sword hand) as was the person who’s hand you were shaking. I couldn’t find anything on this class/caste structure concept put forth during the episode, and I was looking for it.

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