On Vulgar Phrases

Polite Expressions from 1880.

There are also certain words and phrases which for some unaccountable reason are tabooed or excluded in good society. Of these “polite” and “genteel” are two. Never write or say “your polite invitation,” or “you are very polite,” or “you might have had the politeness,” or “he is a very polite man.” It is thought vulgar, and “civility” has taken its place with aristocratic people. “Genteel” is even worse. It is never heard in the best society, and would sound now almost like a jest. Therefore never say, “they are very genteel people,” nor ” this is a very genteel dress.”

I can give you no reason why these poor words are thought vulgar; but it is quite certain that they mark the class to which you belong. Don’t utter such exclamations such as ”My!” “Oh, la! Goodness gracious,” etc. They are very vulgar. “Whatever shall I do!” we have heard from the best authority for good breeding in the kingdom, declared only fit for the lips of a lady’s maid. Never say ” Whatever will he do!” Say, “What will he do. What shall I do!” without the emphatic vulgar ever.

Don’t say “We are going to tea with a friend or to take tea.”  Say, “We are going to drink tea with a friend.” “Lunch” is vulgar; “luncheon” is the right word. Pray do not talk of having “lunched” with any one. Say “I had luncheon.”

Don’t use the word “lady” and “gentleman” when speak­ing of people, as for instance, “She is a very pleasant lady’ It sounds like a servant talking. A lady would say, “She is a very pleasant woman.” “He is a very agreeable man,” no “gentleman,” unless you say old lady and old gentleman, which is quite correct. You must always add “lady or gentleman” to old. Or you may say “He or she is a very nice person.”

However you must not say “We shall be happy to see you, and pray bring the men with you.” Gentlemen would be right then, and in almost every other instance in which you speak of them.

Take pains to pronounce your words correctly. Some people have a strangely vulgar way of saying hos-pit-able for hos-pitable; inter-est-ing for in-teresting.

I think I need scarcely say that it is excessively vulgar to drop or put in its wrong place the letter H. Strangely enough you find educated and well-bred people with this provincialism still adhering to them. Surely it is worthwhile to take pains to articulate the letter rightly. A little trouble and watchfulness would soon conquer the defect.

And now, dear reader, you are ready for polite company!

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