Tag Archive | good manners

Refined speech

              One of the hallmarks of a well bred woman is her refined speech. It is one of the foremost identifiers of a woman’s character as even the slightest interaction with someone usually involves talking. I am developing certain habits of speech that I believe contribute to my goal of becoming a well bred woman. Please note that I don’t speak a certain way because I think I’m better than another. I have heard since childhood that I must think I’m better than other people because of this way or that way that I acted. And it is true that I was once more judgmental than I hope I am now. However, I’ve trained myself to stop assuming what others are thinking, and I appreciate the same in turn. The following examples of how I pursue refined speech may be taken as inspiration or confirmation for your own journey as a well bred woman in progress.

              Let’s begin with what refined speech is not: it isn’t a list of little known “fancy” words that you should add to your vocabulary to appear more sophisticated. In the South, we referred to such a fake show as being high-falutin’ (high fuh-LOO-tin’), and truthfully, adding more high-falutin’ words to your vocabulary doesn’t do much more than make you look, well, high-falutin’. Truly refined speech focuses on tactful subtractions and substitutions in one’s words.

              The first category I subtract from my speech is vulgarity, include all words having to do with cursing, swearing, coarseness, or so-called nice or Christian curse words. I am not going to type them here but a quick google search of “Christian curse words” covers the gamut of what I don’t feel comfortable saying (if you must know!).

              This is the part where I feel like it’s hard not to cross into “I’m better than you” territory. All I’m trying to say is that you just don’t have to curse or swear. When I was in college I picked up many bad habits including using curse words. When I got back home around my church and family, I found myself biting my tongue a lot, not realizing how pervasive my little slips had become. When I got married I quit the vulgarity cold turkey, and although I have occasionally allowed myself to speak inappropriately over the last 9 years, I know I don’t have to. I never had to. I always had the tools, as does every woman, to express myself without stooping to vulgarity. There is strength, albeit a quiet one, in having consistent morals that one abides by, even in the circumstances that everyone else would be cursing in. That reminds me of my first natural childbirth eight years ago. My midwife was coaching me through the last painful pushes and she kept telling me how well I was doing. (I was terrified!) She said, “Most people would be swearing by now” and I answered “But–I–don’t–swear!!” And she said, “Well, most people who don’t swear would be swearing by now!”

              If you are unwilling to give up strong language, perhaps you feel you would be defenseless or powerless without your strong words. In my experience women who tend to use vulgarity sparsely but in extreme circumstances do so in the effort to react to the most extreme situation with equal extremity. However, this is still vulgarity, and although many people do appreciate your not sprinkling your speech with the “f” word like rain in a spring garden, when you do say it, you still said it. You went there, and you used harsh, unrefined speech. I feel sad for women who feel like they have to pull out the occasional curse word to really make a point. You don’t. The people who respect you and take your words seriously will respect your refined speech and your restraint in strongly expressing yourself–and there are plenty of creative ways to make a point that don’t involve four letter words and offensive epitaphs.

              Another category I completely avoid are euphemisms for God and Jesus. A euphemism is a more pleasant way of wording a harsher word or phrase, for example saying “passed away” instead of “died.” But in the case of saying God’s name carelessly, any lesser form (“g-sh,” “gee,” etc.) aren’t okay with me. This traces back to my firm Christian upbringing in childhood, but as an adult I still agree with the mindset behind this speech standard.

              Another area I desire to limit is the use of slang words. Of course I can’t think of any examples right now! I use some slang such as “mom,” “dad,” and “kids,” but most often I try to use standard words rather than substandard words. This is the area I think I need the most work in currently.

              Additionally, I am learning to avoid remarks that malign people groups, that is, ethnic groups or religions. Unfortunately growing up in the South I learned some phrases used by people close to me that I didn’t realize were racist at the time. I am not talking about offensive words for people groups (not giving examples) but rather phrases that ended up being racist due to the judgmental, haughty, narrow mindset behind them. For example: “(skin color) neighborhood”; “all (country of origin) are illegals”; “what did you expect from a _(skin color)_ person?” One needn’t look far on the web these days to find oneself criticized by those on the anti-racist bandwagon, and that’s a good thing. Racism needs to be eradicated forever in the US, and it starts with each individual’s speech and actions including mine. As a young child without much exposure to the world and living in an area of predominately one skin color, I honestly believed my authority figures when they made general statements about people’s religious practices or ethnic groups. While thinking critically about other people’s religion is fine, as it’s a personal choice that should involve mental exertion as well as moral justification, general presuppositions based on fear and rumor are not fine. And who can choose which family they were born into? Judging someone for that makes the least sense of all. I began realizing in college that people are just people. What distinguishes us is our character; it’s all we have, and it’s the thing that is most under our control if we choose to control it.

              Besides subtracting the categories of vulgarity, using God’s name in vain, slang, and maligning speech, I am learning to make substitutions in my quest for refined speech. The first area I have really focused on since having children is substituting kindness for callousness or carelessness. We say so much. We give directions, answer questions, place an order, explain ourselves. We have to ask questions and seek directions or explanations. And all of those times that we speak, there are often times that our phrasing, by taking care, can come out kindly instead of unkindly or just plain carelessly. Situations in which to be especially mindful include taking care not to tell someone else how to do their job, taking care not to assume one knows how someone else feels, taking care to offer appreciation for others’ actions and respect for others’ positions, and taking care not to bring up topics one knows are painful for the listener, such as the loss of a child, or an excessive focus on one’s own happiness in an area where the listener has experienced loss.

              The other category I am attempting to substitute is restraint for wordiness. Wordy: using or containing many and usually too many words. Perhaps my readers are chuckling now; my blog posts are usually very long and wordy. But, to paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, if you only knew how many words I edited out of my 2nd and 3rd readings before publishing, you’d give me some credit! I have also had several people over the years, including my husband, reprimand me for talking too much. I am starting to see that truly, people do take you more seriously when you speak less because that gives your words more value. As a caveat, the reason my blog posts are long is that my goal is to over-analyze topics that I find interesting. I realize that the post lengths limit the amount of readership I will likely achieve, but gaining readers isn’t the goal of this blog. Still, I edit for clarity.

              So what about women who don’t practice any or all of the above characteristics of refined speech? Should we stop our ears and shun them? If you’re thinking that’s what I’m thinking, then maybe this is the first post you’ve read on this blog. I hope to have made it clear over the last few years that I hate judging and am not trying to. I also don’t mean to be condescending. A woman may not possess refined speech simply because she doesn’t know better, or she may have never thought how her speech sounds to other people or affects their perception of her (which perception isn’t ours to control, yet…it still happens). Saying a curse word or choosing carelessness over kindness doesn’t indicate a completely bad character. I believe that refined speech comes from an inward gracious, positive character. So for the woman who may speak roughly out of ignorance or inattentiveness, but who has a good heart and seeks good character, I hope the above examples of ways to pursue refinement in one’s speech may help her in her goal. I know I’ve mentioned it in other posts here, but the best transition from an average woman to a well bred woman is from the inside out, not the outside in. Start with pursuit of good character, such as love, courage, and kindness, and refined speech may follow if you wish it!


Party etiquette

               So much can be said about party etiquette, I could not cover it all. Being the time of year in the northern hemisphere for outdoor entertaining, weddings, dinners, and other gatherings, I’ve had several thoughts swirling in my head about manners. Here they are in no particular order.

As a hostess:
               Clean the house and tidy the party area. The guest bathroom should not have personal items sitting out.
               For the duration of the party, all pets should be confined to areas of the house away from the guests.
               Provide at least one raw fruit or vegetable when serving food.
               Start and end the event at the stated times.
               Greet each guest personally and direct them to a place to sit or mingle. Introduce guests unfamiliar with each other.
               If a guest is invited to a bridal shower, they should be invited to the wedding as well. Typically one invites fewer, closer friends to the shower and more people to the wedding.
               It is considered best form that the bridal or baby shower be given by a friend, not a relative, of the recipient.

As a guest:
               Respond promptly to invitations, letting your hostess know if you must arrive late or leave early.
               If you are uncertain whether or not children are included in the invitation, find out ahead of time.
               Always bring a gift and card to events such as birthday or anniversary celebrations, showers, and weddings.
               Bring a thank you note written beforehand to give to your hostess after a dinner party or luncheon.
               Do not feel obligated to attend functions given by distant relatives or acquaintances around whom you don’t feel comfortable.
               Never invite others to an event that you received an invitation for. If you are invited to an event by another guest and not the hostess, do not accept.
               If you are invited to a dinner, do not offer to bring any food. A bottle of wine is acceptable if you wish to bring a hostess gift, but be sure you know the preferences of the hosting family.
               If your hostess asks you for your family’s eating preferences or allergy information, answer honestly. It is crushing to be told that a family “eats anything” and then watch them pick apart and eventually throw away the dinner one prepared.

               That’s all I can think of for now, based on my interesting and mostly enjoyable experiences the past few weeks. What are your thoughts on proper party manners? How do you go out of your way to be a gracious, considerate hostess or guest?

               Thank you for reading The Well Bred Woman in Progress!

Living well without manipulating

               Being well bred is not about creating, seeking out, or living in an environment in which others treat us properly.   So much of what I read online puts the responsibility on the individual to create their world.   Think about phrases such as “Create the life of your dreams,” “Surround yourself with those who appreciate you,” “Don’t associate with haters”– and the overall message that if you act a certain way you will command respect.   I have been researching corset wearing lately for shaping up purposes after discovering that I have diastasis recti (I had four kids in five years);   I was surprised to see a line stating that wearing corsets increases one’s posture and poise, which can therefore elicit greater respect and attention from those around the wearer.

               Reading all of this, being bombarded by it every day, especially by those of us who enjoy self-improvement blogs and reading, it’s hard not to come away with the impression that much of what happens to us is controlled by us.   Another reason that it’s hard for me to let go of that concept is that I was raised in legalistic religious settings for most of my youth, and I heard preaching that lifestyle choices were directly linked to outcomes that I know now happen randomly to people across the globe.

               But the truth is simply this:   being well bred (or living a refined life, living holistically, living mindfully and joyfully, or whatever one’s goal is in pursuing the well bred lifestyle) does not involve creating circumstances, either directly or indirectly, that coincide with one’s values.   Of course, one should create circumstances that meet one’s needs;   be it moving into or out of a housing situation, picking the best job or career, eating and dressing a certain way, reading this or watching that on television, etc.   Everyone has control over some aspects of life, if we take the time to figure out what they are.   Beyond that, we have control over our response to what happens to us.

               To be more specific, I have gotten the impression from reading various etiquette, well breeding, and gentility websites and books that the polite people of the world need to attempt to instill politeness everywhere, similar to how anti-smoking activists have mostly eliminated smoking in public places and restaurants.   Some of these politeness pioneers only insist it be done gently and subtly, leading by example;   others will go so far as to consider themselves the voice meant to caution a stranger’s disruptive child, to lecture a rude customer in line in front of them, etc.   I believe that such people have good intent.   It’s not that I don’t think what they’re doing will work, though I am sure that leading by example is more effective than lecturing or jumping into another family’s disciplinary issue.   But my point is that although we do lead by example, for better or for worse, our motive should not be trying to create a happier, more self-serving (for indeed it would be) world that teems with gracious, polite, well adjusted people who both appreciate our efforts to be well bred and reciprocate with their own best intentions.   We should live as well bred as possible based on our knowledge and capabilities;   however, to do so out of a desire, ever so subtle or well meaning, to change others or elicit different reactions is misguided and futile.   That is because there will always be at least one person that won’t reciprocate, can’t appreciate the efforts, and simply won’t care.   They won’t care how tall and straight your corset makes your stand;   your soft words will only infuriate them more;   they’ll think your well manicured appearance is an attempt to show off or one up.   In my opinion, it seems the number of sociopaths and narcissists is skyrocketing in the United States today, and in my short existence I have seen many reactions that simply did not make sense based on the “If I act properly, I’ll elicit a favorable response” logic.

               I feel this subject urgently needs to be discussed because there is so much opinion to the contrary, that living this way or doing that thing will “win friends, influence people, command respect, earn yourself a job promotion.”   I even see job promotions, greater influence, higher pay, and a happier existence promoted as the effects of having a personal style or color analysis done.   While I would love to have a personal image analysis–I’ve already picked out this creative stylist for when I save up the funds–I want it for myself—for the pleasure I derive from fine form, beautiful symmetry, and coordinating colors in my best hues.   Dressing as mindfully as possible would make me feel happy and better about myself.   I have already noticed a marked difference in the behavior of those around me when I wear my best colors;   in public, people often rush to open the door for me or offer to assist me.   But I don’t do it, nor do I believe I should do it, to manipulate other people.   I have been reading a lot lately on psychology and the effects people have on each other (Quiet by Susan Cain is a must read), and I keep going back to the Bible’s frequent descriptions of people as sheep (1 2 3).   Manipulating people is easy;   so easy, in fact, that most of us do it every day either unwittingly or with the best intentions.   But to behave in any way in order to elicit positive responses from others is manipulation and should not be one’s reason for acting well bred.

               To sum up, we cannot, nor should we try, to control the circumstances around us in order to create a more genteel life.   We cannot teach every rude person how to respond better to us;   no amount of dressing well will ensure we’re always treated like the Queen;   a soft answer doesn’t always turn away wrath;   and there are so many narcissists on the loose that I have considered becoming a hermit.   We should always do what lines up with our principles and act in a way that enriches our own lives;   responding graciously to a rude person enables us to sleep well at night and teaches our children a valuable character lesson;   dressing well elevates our mood and reduces stress;   soft words spoken in the heat of the moment will need no taking back.   We will probably influence many others for good, but there are those that will not be changed and it isn’t our responsibility to try changing them.   It’s time to take the burden for other’s behavior off ourselves, my friends;   a life well lived in line with your principles is your legacy to the world, not your obligation.

What to say when: proper address

               Before going over this week’s “What to Say When” topic, I would like to explore the concept behind being ready with an answer.   In other words, how does a person know “when to say what” or even if to say anything at all?   To some, my “What to Say When” topics might seem surprising, petty, or not worth making a big deal about!   Of course, this is because we are all different, and what I find hard to handle or difficult to reply to might evoke a flawless response from someone with a different background, experience, and personality than mine.   However that may be, a well bred woman’s response will always be mindful, respectful, kind, and reflective of her unique lifestyle.   Although the average person would stutter or giggle nervously in a certain situation, a woman with strong convictions and a settled mindset on how to live would rather be able to respond with a thoughtful, well reasoned response.   Thus, some people will inevitably find my emphasis on finding the right words in a particular situation to be overkill or simply unnecessary.   However, I believe that if there is ever an instance in which a woman feels uncomfortable, her toeing the status line by smiling, not answering, or acting like everything is okay when it is not is more harmful to her inner self than being picky about how she wants to react to a particular situation.   Repeatedly acting like everything is all right on the outside when it is not, forcing a smile, and faking reactions have been linked to poor mental and physical health!

               A few months ago I posted about the proper way to refer to others whose names are unknown.   Today I will share how I handle being addressed improperly by others.   As a mother of small children, I often find myself bringing them along on my errands.   While I can (and have) passed as a college student or teenager when I go out alone, I find the transformation of my image amazing when I am seen with my family.   I can hardly run a day’s worth of errands without being referred to at least once as “Mom,” the most irritating form of disrespectful address to my mind.   It bothers me even more than terms of endearment.   I suppose it is because it makes me feel that I have been reduced to a functioning uterus in the eyes of the person speaking, and it irks me that someone would refer to a woman who is not their mother as “Mom.”   I mean, would any stranger ever refer to a woman with children as “Mother”?   “Here you go, Mother,” or “Need any help with this, Mother?”   Of course not!   So why is it okay to repeat the same phrases referring to someone as “Mom”?   Well, it is not.   And it irritates and upsets me.   After puzzling it out, I realized I have three options:   magically let go of the discomfort it brings and not let it bother me, be silent while being offended inside, or politely request the offender to refer to me as “Ma’am.”   Most people would probably think the first option is the best, or even the only alternative.   After all, we hear it ALL the time in America;   “don’t let it bother you, let it roll off like water off a duck’s back, stop being so sensitive.” My question is when does this apply and when does it not?   After all, if the grocery store attendant offering to accompany me to my car said, “Can I help you out with this, Fatty?” no one would even hesitate to decry that as not only offensive but also something that needs to be addressed post-haste.   “Excuse me, sir, but you have no business referencing me in terms of my physical appearance.”   Then why do people feel the need to reference people in terms of their biological choices?   “Can I help you to your car, woman who has never given birth…”   Right.   So whether or not others agree, this well bred woman in progress has decided that any further situations in which someone refers to her as “Mom” will be met with the following response:   a friendly smile, first and foremost–this dispels tension and puts both me and the other person in a good state of mind–and with a kind tone of voice, the response, “You can call me ma’am (or “my name” or “Please refer to me as ma’am, thanks!”).”   When I brought this topic up on my personal Facebook recently, certain people were very quick to point out that if a person’s intentions are good, I have no business taking offense, but that really does not apply here or in any situation involving good manners.   That is to say, if any and all instances where someone could choose to exercise good manners or not merely come back to their having good intentions, we would not need manners at all, only an x-ray machine that revealed people’s intentions.   If your intentions are truly good, you will become acquainted with proper modes of conduct and will make them a way of life instead of slipping into the comfortable mode of slang and carelessness.

               Can anyone sympathize with just wanting to be able to feel okay when put into a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable or insulted?   Let me know in the comments below.

Touch up on holiday manners

               Ah, the holiday season! As November and December go by, so many of us engage in holiday celebrations with our friends and loved ones. Of all the year’s occasions, the year-end festivities tend to bring about the most contact between family members and close friends, those dearest to our hearts. Perhaps contributed to by the excitement of the season or the familiarity that comes with long-term relationships, one’s manners can tend to slip during intimate holiday gatherings. Following are some tips to touch up one’s holiday manners.

               With so much visiting, appropriate limits on meeting and greeting should always be observed. For a drop in visit, 15-30 minutes is an acceptable time. For a visit including a meal, one should linger no longer than an hour past the serving of dessert or coffee. Watch the host for clues that the night is winding down, and never be the last to leave a party. With today’s plethora of available technology, drop in visits should never be a surprise. If one is going to go to the trouble of purchasing holiday gifts for the young children of a friend from church, she ought to have known well in advance that she was planning to drop them off at her friend’s house and should have called ahead to alert them to her impending arrival. Calling before coming unexpectedly is always appropriate, no matter how post-modern the world has become.

               Another area I have observed that tends to go by the wayside is the proper entering of another’s home. No matter if one’s hosts are one’s parents, children, siblings, or best friends, it is polite to knock or ring the bell upon arriving at their doorstep. A particularly festive hostess may have left her front door open with the storm door closed, to let the warmth and merriment of her house spill outside. That is not, however, an excuse to enter without knocking. By knocking, one allows the hostess time to answer the door graciously and greet her guests properly. It gives her the pleasure of welcoming her guests into her home, which is impossible to do if she walks into her living room and finds her guests already standing there, shoes and coats amok. The comfort of a familiar place can induce one to set one’s coat wherever, and leave on muddy shoes, but an empathetic guest will observe her hostess’s wishes regarding where to place coats and shoes, even if that hostess is her daughter or sister. It is especially important during this time of year for parents to treat their grown children, especially those new to the scene of holiday entertaining, with respect, courtesy, and good humor. No matter how closely people are related, it sours the holiday spirit for an overbearing older relative to openly criticize the entertaining efforts of the younger relatives.

               While the polite guest is restrained from criticizing, sometimes she may find herself in an atmosphere that seems to need improvement. Thus, she will ease the hostess’s burden and boost the festive spirit by smoothing over awkward comments, changing the subject from negative topics, complimenting sincerely, and making everyone around her feel included by greeting and speaking with them all. Often a gathering of relatives who have not seen each other for awhile tends to become a sort of one-upping contest, where everything from children to trucks to recipes gets compared and outdone. But the proper guest will not return an opening line of, “My child plans to compete in the National Spelling Bee next spring” with “MY child—&tc”. Instead, she will ask one or two pertinent questions and take interest in the conversation of others. She will avoid conversing about potentially offensive subjects, such as the health of those present, and especially the subjects of politics or religion. Even though most of the holiday events this time of year center around religious traditions, personal views and interpretations of religious topics can vary greatly amongst family members, and it is inappropriate to argue the finer points of religion during a holiday gathering. If everyone has agreed to join together, then it is safe to assume they all agree on a casual level on the reason for gathering, and just because it is one’s familiar family does not make it any less hurtful to criticize or argue various religious views.

               Many etiquette manuals stress the importance of bringing a hostess gift each time one is invited to another’s home for a meal. Around my area, if one has been asked to contribute a dish to a meal, the hostess gift is generally waived, although I am sure it would still be appreciated. It need not be anything large, but is rather a token of appreciation, and should be both useful and pretty. The most important thing to remember when giving any gift is that the gift ought to suit the receiver’s personality and reflect the giver’s personality. The art of finding such a precise item, then, encompasses a skill much finer than the fineness of an expensive, flashy item. It is an invaluable tool that any well-bred woman should seek to cultivate in her priceless treasury of abilities.

               Another area emphasized in etiquette is the sending of handwritten, postage-stamped thank-you notes. I admit this is an area that I am not keen on doing. I believe that in an ideal world, it would be for the best, but the cost of stamps inhibits my ability to send as much post as I used to. However, not affording stamps is no excuse for being ungrateful. Upon taking one’s leave from a visit, party, or other event, one should always speak directly to one’s host and / or hostess. With either a handshake or a hug, one ought to thank them directly for the invitation and assure them that she had a wonderful time. In my opinion, this is just as appropriate as a written note, and may even come across as more genuine.

               The December calendar tends to fill up quickly. As invitations are sent out and accepted, it becomes inevitable that any given woman, especially a socially active one, may not be able to attend everything. Whatever one’s reasons are for not attending, a simple RSVP in accordance with the hostess’s instructions (i.e., online, in person, or on paper) is all that is necessary. No explanations or apologies are needed, as one never need feel sorry for making the best decision confidently. If a woman accepts an invitation but later receives an alternate invitation for the same time, she should not cancel her initial plans to attend the invitation just received. If she wishes to cancel her plans for any reason, she should stay in and not attend any other event out of consideration to the hostess with whom she originally accepted and canceled.

               Last, I have a few thoughts on greeting cards and authenticity during the holidays. Many etiquette blogs and books have written that sending cards is an absolutely essential holiday activity, and the many reasons for why it is good and polite to do so can create the opposite impression that it is bad and impolite not to do so. I have sent Christmas cards in the past and I always receive a few each year. I have had relatives inform me that each Christmas that they send cards, they keep track of who they receive them from, and whoever does not send them a card does not get one the next year. I have had quite a few relatives cease sending me cards as a result of my own dropping this practice a few years ago. As mentioned above, in an ideal world where postage stamps and greeting cards grew on trees and I had much more time on my hands, I would love to send Christmas cards. Someday I may begin the practice again. But to be honest, when I was doing it, it was solely out of obligation. It was to keep those manipulating relatives on my list of people to send me cards each year. And I experienced no joy at all. It was not genuine. These days, I pay monthly for internet and phone service. I always include gasoline in the budget and am very blessed to have a fine vehicle in good condition. And around the holidays, I try to make an extra effort to either call, email, or visit the relatives I hold dear using the items I already own and pay for. Some of them probably understand and appreciate my efforts, and some (the ones who no longer send me cards) probably still hold that against me. But I believe that a truly well-bred woman, no matter her income level, will practice authenticity in all her ways and will not attempt to win the approval of others through her efforts to spread holiday cheer. Instead, her heartfelt efforts will bring all the cheer needed to make the season special.

               Happy Holidays and warmest wishes to all my readers and their family and friends!

Formality when addressing others

               For many, the word “formality” probably conjures up images of high-society gatherings, stiffness, or rigidity. To me it means doing the right thing at the right time, and one of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines formality as “an established form or procedure that is required or conventional.”1

               An everyday need to display formality occurs when a person addresses another. When someone’s title is unknown, the well-mannered woman will always address him or her as “Sir” or “Madam” or “Ma’am.” If someone’s title is known, such as “Doctor” or “Reverend,” she will use it unless asked not to. A judge ought to be referred to as “Your Honor” or “Judge (Last Name).”2 When speaking with an unacquainted man who may feign all kinds of umbrage at being referred to as “Sir,” she need not feel obligated to refer to him by his first name even if he insists. Better to smile briefly, brush it off, and move on to the business at hand (I am thinking of several different occasions when I waited tables as a young woman). Using proper titles is as much for the woman’s benefit as it is for those she addresses, and she ought not feel forced to cozy up to men who insist on being referred to improperly by their first names. (Besides, who expects a waitress to remember her diners’ names?)

               Even though the practice of formal address may appear to be falling out of use, proper manners do not allow for any other titles and especially not for endearments. I am astonished by how common it is in my region for a person to be referred to as “Sweetheart”; for a mother to be referred to as “Mom” (one of my personal least favorites!); and for “Mister” and “Miss” or “Miz” to be used instead of “Sir” and “Ma’am.” “Hon,” “Dear,” and “Sweetie” are equally informal and will not be heard in the vocabulary of a well-bred woman addressing others formally. Of course, within her own private circle she may use terms of endearment, particularly for spouses or small children, but care should be taken not to overdo the use of pet names, which may sound or eventually become insincere.

               This reminds me of the tendency in American society to be unique, special, or different, and most certainly to go against the flow. I suppose society is going through an anti-establishment age, or at least part of it is (see this article for an in-depth discussion of generational trademarks, as well as to see which generation you fit into!). I have encountered many people who “own” their manners and etiquette faux pas,3 claiming it is what makes them unique and special. However, I believe that one should cultivate and display other ways of being different and noteworthy rather than making others uncomfortable by breaking standard etiquette rules. A hallmark of good breeding is treating others with the utmost respect, love, and kindness. Even something as common as addressing another person should be done in the standard way, out of respect to him and as a sign of good manners.

1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Definition of “formality,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/formality.
2. wikiHow, How to Address a Judge in Court, http://www.wikihow.com/Address-a-Judge-in-Court.
3. Social blunder