Jen's Reviews > Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior

Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin
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's review
Nov 09, 2009

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bookshelves: 2009, humor, misc-how-to
Read in November, 2009

Judith Martin has impeccable wit. In answer to the question, "Isn't etiquette always a matter of making other people feel comfortable?" she answers "This would make politeness an activity exclusively for suckers and wimps. And, of course, sluts."
I will never wear white gloves or leave my calling card, but I enjoyed reading this book and I burst out laughing several times. A few excerpts:

Dear Miss Manners: Usually, lots of men I pass by on the street say "hi" to me. I assume it's flirting. Most of the time I just ignore it and walk right by, since I don't want to stop walking and say "hi" to a stranger. I don't even know what his intentions are! But lately, I've felt that what I do seems pretty rude and I think I'm coming off as unapproachable, and I was wondering what is the best way to deal with this kind of situation without being rude.
Gentle Reader: If you want to seem approachable -- which Miss Manners understands to be the same as not wanting to seem unapproachable -- you might respond, "Hi, honey. Are you lonesome?" She does not recommend this. What you were already doing is the correct behavior, not because you don't know what a strange man's intentions are toward you, but because you do.

Dear Miss Manners: What is the proper reply when someone says, "Excuse Me"?
Gentle Reader: A weak smile. The way to perform a weak smile is to raise the corners of the mouth without moving the center part of the lips, which remain closed. The length of the weak smile depends on the magnitude of the act for which the excuse was requested. For example, if a person has asked to be excused for burping, the weak smile in response should last only a fleeting moment, as did the burp, one hopes. If he is asking to be excused for breaking a porcelain vase that your great-grandfather brought back from China, the weak smile becomes fixed. This is to distract attention from the expression in your eyes as you stare at the fragment of china on the floor.

Dear Miss Manners: Now that I have mastered a "weak smile", I find that I have need for a "hollow laugh." Can you please tell me how to do it?
Gentle Reader: Ah, the hollow laugh. Yes, indeed, it is a most useful social skill indispensable for for responding to tasteless jokes, excessive kidding, and other unacceptable forms of behavior. Miss Manners will be glad to teach it to you. For the hollow laugh, you first smile with the lips wide open, displaying all of the forward teeth, while the rest of your face registers a puzzled look. You then force up from the throat a noise that does not resemble a genuine laugh, but rather imitates the words "Ha ha" or "Huh huh" that writers use to transcribe the sound of a laugh. When these words have been emitted, leave the open smile hanging there for a moment, as if you had forgotten about it, and then abruptly close the mouth into a solemn expression.
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11/17/2009 page 499

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Stan (new)

Stan I love Miss Manners, she's a great writer. Of course you'd have to be good to get anyone to read about manners.

message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen Yes, you were the one who introduced me to her wit, so thank-you. I'm hopeless, manners-wise, but I do love to read her books.

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