Friday, 28 April 2017

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 28 April

Thomas Blaikie on showing off, friendship etiquette and ridiculous uses of grammar

Dear Thomas
I am occasionally published in niche periodicals; for example, I have an article on the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse in the latest issue of the journal Lamp, published by the Association of Lighthouse Keepers.

There are many like me for whom seeing ourselves in print is an event.

Can you advise me if it’s acceptable to send copies of the subject periodical to my friends? Perhaps I should simply draw my friends’ attention to my writing success? Or should I say nothing?
Ian Williams, Usk

Dear Ian
How nice to hear from you again – one of our most loyal readers of The Lady. I would be delighted to see your article in Lamp.

Your question raises an important issue: where is the line between unattractive boasting and legitimate pride in our own achievements? In your case, the fact that you are asking makes it all right. You are aware that excessive vanity and self-preoccupation are a trap into which you do not wish to fall. I once asked a well-known woman whether she was engaged with any project at that moment. ‘Don’t you know about my new shop?’ she huffed. Why should I have known about her shop? What a presumption.

All the same, to some extent we’re all fighting for attention in this world, all engaged on a life-long effort of self-promotion. But it’s a question of degree. An excessively modest person can be just as much of a bore as a raving egomaniac. Recently, I was asked by an acquaintance if I could excite some interest in his business with the powers-that-be at The Lady. I was happy to do this, but less thrilled to be subsequently badgered and never thanked.

Your excitement at appearing in print is perfectly natural as is your desire to share this with friends. And they wouldn’t be much in the way of friends if they did not share it. But don’t be surprised if interest wanes after the third or fourth article, rather as it does when a couple produce a third or fourth baby. It might be excessive (and impractical) to send copies to all your friends. Perhaps concentrate on those who you think might be especially interested. Include a note explaining where your article is and what it’s about. Nothing more. Otherwise, you could email people or put a ‘post’ on Facebook – but keep it factual and strike a modest tone: ‘maybe you’ll be interested… you might like to read this…’

People go wrong from getting anxious and wound-up. All you can do is tell people what you’ve been doing as clearly and informatively as you can. Leave it to them to make something of it. The slightest whiff of vanity and self-importance or insecurity – and they’ll be put off.  

Please send your questions to thomas.blaikie@lady.co.uk or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Americanisms

Joseph Donnelly wishes to complain about ‘ality’ words: adjectives that are aggrandised into nouns by the addition of ‘ality’, such as ‘the lethality of this weapon… the rurality of the location… the constitutionality of the country…’ further such ‘made-up’ words include ‘criminality’, ‘totality’, ‘functionality’ and ‘fundamentality’. It’s strange, because I always used to think president harding was a laughing stock with his 1920 presidential election campaign slogan ‘Return to Normalcy’, when it should have been ‘normality’ – even though he won with 60 per cent of the vote.

The hope of ‘normalcy’ was clearly attractive. ‘Normality’ might have been a loser. On the whole, I agree with Mr Donnelly that ‘ality’ words are pompous and unnecessary. A neighbourhood is riddled with crime, not criminality. A location is either rural or urban. I don’t really know what ‘rurality’ could be. ‘Functionality’ might be gaining a foothold though.‘Buy our new vacuum cleaner with improved functionality’ has more impact than ‘improved function’. Words are slippery things, and you never know where you are with them.



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