Monday, June 14, 2004

by Emily Post (1922)

IT is difficult to explain why well-bred people avoid certain words and expressions that are admitted by etymology and grammar. So it must be merely stated that they have and undoubtedly always will avoid them. Moreover, this choice of expression is not set forth in any printed guide or book on English, though it is followed in all literature....

To liken Best Society to a fraternity, with the avoidance of certain seemingly unimportant words as the sign of recognition, is not a fantastic simile. People of the fashionable world invariably use certain expressions and instinctively avoid others; therefore when a stranger uses an “avoided” one he proclaims that he “does not belong,” exactly as a pretended Freemason proclaims himself an “outsider” by giving the wrong “grip”—or whatever it is by which Brother Masons recognize one another.

To be able to separate best English from merely good English needs a long process of special education, but to recognize bad English one need merely skim through a page of a book, and if a single expression in the left-hand column following can be found (unless purposely quoted in illustration of vulgarity) it is quite certain that the author neither writes best English nor belongs to Best Society.

In our residence we retire early (or arise)/At our house we go to bed early (or get up)
I desire to purchase/I should like to buy
Lovely food/Good food
Elegant home/Beautiful house—or place
A stylish dresser/She dresses well, or she wears lovely clothes
Charmed! or Pleased to meet you!/How do you do!
Attended/Went to
I trust I am not trespassing/I hope I am not in the way
Request (meaning ask)/Ask
Will you accord me permission?/Will you let me? or May I?
Permit me to assist you/Let me help you
Brainy/Brilliant or clever
I presume/I suppose
Tendered him a banquet/Gave him a dinner
Partook of liquid refreshment/Had something to drink
Perform ablutions/Wash
A song entitled/Called (proper if used in legal sense)
I will ascertain /I will find out
Residence or mansion/House, or big house
In the home/In some one's house or At home
Phone, photo, auto/Telephone, photograph, automobile


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I have used a good many of the left hand comments, but then I have never been known to be in the Best Society. Too many country roots! Kdip

12:17 PM, June 15, 2004  
Blogger Jan said...

Hopefully you're not taking this as MY standard! This was the standard in 1922! I'm sure there is still a standard, at least so far as there being a certain grammar that sets people apart. I just love looking at old etiquette books to see the old standard!

1:51 PM, June 15, 2004  

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