Weekend Word Wrap: the right words

David K. Israel

In keeping with my theme this week "“ Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette, the best-selling book from the 1950s "“ I thought it would be appropriate to use the Word Wrap to look at what she had to say about words.

Suffice it to say, she had A LOT to say on what to say, and when to say it. These interesting excerpts come from a long list she published in her chapter on Correspondence called "Words and Phrases Often Incorrectly Used and Pronounced."

Fifth: Not to be pronounced fith. The second "f" should be heard. Hairdo: This ugly word has been admitted to American dictionaries because people have trouble pronouncing the more attractive French word "coiffure" and get that confused with "coiffeur," a male hairdresser. Word-sensitive people either use coiffure or some substitute, "Have you arranged (or fixed) your hair in a new way?" Hosiery: This is a shop or trade term for stockings. It should not be used in conversation. Limb: Don't use as a nice-nelly substitute for the forthright "leg." Like: It is colloquial—but ugly—to use "like" as a conjunction, as if it were synonymous with "as." Not "It snowed like it did in January," but "It snowed as it did in January." Why give into the vulgar without a fight? [ed. note: I can just imagine what she would have thought of our modern-day teenage colloquial: "It, like, snowed like it did in January."] Second: Be sure to sound the "d." Sore: Correct and acceptable only to describe physical or mental hurt, not a state of irritation. "Was she sore at me!" is a vulgarism. Vase: It seems affected these days to pronounce this as "vahz" instead of "vaze." Build or Shape: These vulgar expressions should never be used to indicate a person's "figure," e.g. "Jane has a good shape." Drapes: Advertising term for "draperies" or "curtains." It should never be used in conversation.