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The Art of Conversing with Fluency and Propriety
Things, Words, and Sayings, to be avoided in conversation.- Do not use the terms “genteel people;” this, that, or the other, is very genteel.” Substitute for them, “They are highly accomplished;” or “He is a gentlemanly man;” or “He has a gentlemanly appearance;” or “She has the manner of a gentlewoman.”
It is not in good taste for a lady to say “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” to a gentleman, or frequently to introduce the word “Sir” at the end of her sentence, unless she desires to be exceedingly reserved toward the person with whom she is conversing.
Do not use such words as “I guess,” or “I calculate,” or “I expect,” or “I reckon,” too often, and, as they are generally used, out of place.
When relating a conversation, do not, at every few words, put in “says he,” or “says she,” which last is sometimes shortened into a continual “sheshe.”
Interrupt no one while speaking, though it be your most intimate friend.
Laugh not at your own story; if it have any wit, it will be appreciated.
Speaking of any distant person, it is the height of rudeness to point at him.
Do not forget names, nor mistake one name for another. To speak of Mr. What-d’ye-call-him, or You-know-who, Mrs. Thingum, What’s-her-name, or How-d’ye-call-her, is exceedingly coarse and unlady-like. It is the same to begin a story, without being able to finish it, breaking off in the middle with the exclamation “I’ve forgot the rest.”
Always look people in the face when you speak to them, otherwise you will be thought conscious of some guilt; besides, you lose the opportunity of reading their countenances, from which you will much better learn the impression which your discourse makes upon them, than you possibly can from their words; for words are at the will of every one, but the countenance is frequently involuntary.
Do not repeat the name of the person to whom you are speaking, as “Indeed, Mr. Stubbs, you don’t say so, sir,” – or “Really, Mrs. Smith, I quite agree with you, Mrs. Smith.” It is a sufficiently bad habit in an equal, but in one of lower rank it becomes impertinence.
There cannot be any practice more offensive than that of taking a person aside to whisper in a room with company; yet this rudeness is of frequent occurrence – and that with those who know it to be improper.
Thornwell, Emily, THE LADY’S GUIDE TO COMPLETE ETIQUETTE, New York, Belford, Clarke & Company, 1884