Saturday, October 3, 2015

To Reject the "Why-Bother?" Attitude of Modern Culture

"The quality needed most of all, the universal attribute of all successful women,
is a zest for life ... a keen appreciation of all the pleasant things, 
great and small, which set us apart from animals to the degree that we are civilized."
Adele Williams

Nearly forty years ago, Adele Williams, in her book Gracious Living, posed the question, "Are We Becoming a Nation of Slobs?"  Bless her heart, what would Mrs. Williams say today?  Perhaps she wouldn't be too surprised because even then she wisely saw where the casual, why-even-bother mindset was heading.

Mrs. Williams tells the story of being at a dinner party with the food editor of a large metropolitan daily paper ...
"She was extolling the virtues of her Microwave oven. 'You see,' she explained, 'I can fix dinner and put everybody's serving in those individual sectional plastic trays.  They stack right on top of each other in the refrigerator, you know, then when anyone wants to eat he just puts his tray in the microwave oven and dinner is ready in a few minutes.' "

"I had to leave the table," Mrs. Williams later wrote.  "Maybe I'm a voice crying in the wilderness but what is this?  What happened to the attractively set dining table, lighted by candles, where everyone gathered for a pleasant meal at the end of the day?  What kind of people are we bringing up to run the world?"
Mrs. Williams wasn't against convenience in the kitchen, but she certainly knew nothing is inspiring about on-the-go meals stacked in the refrigerator on plastic trays.  Where was the inspiring atmosphere?  The loveliness that encouraged good conversation and an appreciation for good food, lovingly prepared?  Unlike the food editor (the irony!) of the large newspaper, Mrs. Williams understood one of the most powerfully influential roles a woman can possess is creating an atmosphere of gracious living for herself and her loved ones.

A lady possesses a keen appreciation for the details that bring beauty and pleasure to every day living.  She understands the profound difference a few fresh blooms on the breakfast table or candlelight at dinner can make in the atmosphere of the home.  She rejects the "why bother?" attitude of modern culture and chooses instead to care

Principle:  A lady rejects the "why bother?" attitude of modern culture.

Cookbook Illustration: Kay Lovelace, Culinary Arts Institute, circa 1955.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

To Speak Impeccably - The Four Ps of a Pleasing Speaking Voice

A pleasant voice, which has to include clear enunciation,
is not only attractive to those who hear it ...
its appeal is permanent.
Loretta Young

Impeccable speech is not only about the words a lady says, but how she says them.  A voice that falls pleasantly on the listener's ear is an asset to which every lady can aspire, for the qualities that make a voice pleasing are within her control and are perfected with attention and practice.

The first essential quality of a pleasing speaking voice is crisp, polished pronunciation.  Distinct words or sounds are not blended together in what phonetics professors call assimilation. Dunno (don't know), hafta (have to), probly (probably), gonna (going to), wanna (want to), and ushally (usually) are common assimilation errors.  Care is also taken not to drop the d consonant from the end of words, as in used to, and supposed to.

A second quality required for a pleasing voice is balanced projection.  Many women speak too loudly; others use an irritating, breathy whisper.  A lady projects just enough for the listener to comfortably hear, but not so loudly that others beyond her circle of conversation can't help overhearing.  Perhaps you have witnessed women who are so caught up in themselves that they seem to think everyone, even strangers, will be interested in hearing what they have to say.  Ladies do not entertain such illusions.

A third indispensable quality of a pleasing speaking voice is sweet-sounding pitch.  A shrieky, shrill voice is not at all pleasant; neither is a high-pitched, cloying voice that is overly ingratiating.  A lady speaks in natural, low tones that convey sincerity, warmth, and expression. 

And finally, an amiable pace is the fourth characteristic of a pleasing speaking voice.  A lady's speech never sounds rushed to the listener.  It's rhythm is like a comfortable strolling gait - not a fast gallop, and not a slow crawl.  It is complimented by timely pauses, allowing both the speaker and the listener to breathe and engage in thoughtful conversation. 

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Speak with crisp, polished pronunciation and balanced projection, in a sweet-sounding pitch at an amiable pace.

Photo:  Audrey Hepburn receives elocution lessons in My Fair Lady, 1964.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

To Speak Impeccably: Becoming Comfortable With Silent Pauses

"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."
Martin Farquhar Tupper

Many women find themselves uncomfortable with moments of silence in conversation.  We fear not knowing what to say and feel the need to fill empty space with something, anything.  As a result, we say things that are either mindless or better left unsaid.

A lady wisely understands that observing brief moments of silence has enormous benefits in conversation.  Silent pauses serve as moments of refreshment, when both parties are given the space to take in what has been said; to consider how they might next contribute something worthwhile to the conversation; to be sensitive to the other's needs; as well as to be mindful of the shared time and completely present in it.  None of these are likely to happen if one is worried about filling every little nook and cranny with chatter.

The more we practice small spaces of thoughtful silence, the more at ease we will become with them.  When tempted to say something just for the sake of avoiding silence, take a deep breath, look into your friend's eyes and simply smile.  It may be the most eloquent thing you contribute to the conversation.

Principle:  A lady is comfortable with silent pauses in conversation.

Art: Afternoon Tea, Edward Cucuel

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

To Speak Impeccably - Eliminating Slang

"Remember that you are a human being with a soul
and the divine gift of articulate speech:  that your native language
is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible;
and don't sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon."
Professor Higgins

Slang is the junk food of language.  As a cheap substitute, slang lacks the rich nourishment and interesting range of flavors that real words possess.   In slanguage, everything good is cool or awesome.  Whereas real language offers a full spectrum of sweet, sour, salty, and savory descriptors.  Slang takes the sugar and spice out of our conversation.

A lady is a connoisseur of words.  She reads quality literature, observes meaningful words, and makes them her own.  She resists pedestrian slang as she would a steady diet of processed convenience food. Instead she delights in the beauty of real language.

Below is a sampling of unladylike words to avoid.
it's like
I/she/he was like
yeah right
hang out
have a blast
freak out

Impeccable Speech Habit:  Eliminate slang.

Photo:  Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, 1964.