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Judith Martin

"We are all born charming, frank, and spontaneous and must be civilized before we are fit to participate in society."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"Growing up is the best revenge."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"What restricts the use of the world 'lady' among the courteous is that it is intended to set a woman apart from ordinary humanity, and in the working world that is not a help, as women have discovered in many bitter ways."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"A young lady is a female child who has just done something dreadful."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"A general rule of etiquette is that one apologizes for the unfortunate occurrence, but the unthinkable is unmentionable."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"The etiquette question that troubles so many fastidious people New Year's Day is: How am I ever going to face those people again?"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"... many of the guests will eventually leave the table to watch football on television, which would be a rudeness at any other occasion but is a relief at Thanksgiving and probably the only way to get those people to budge."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"Why bring children into a world where no one writes letters?"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior (1982)

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"... he made the important scholastic discovery that a student who is belligerently thinking aloud is presumed to have done the reading."

Judith Martin, Gilbert (1982)

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"After careful observation, Gilbert concluded that it is more effective socially to be tall and barely civil than short and eagerly sociable. This did not affect his height, but it taught him when to shut up."

Judith Martin, Gilbert (1982)

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"Only a person who considers himself too good for you is good enough."

Judith Martin, Gilbert (1982)

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"Protocol is etiquette with a government expense account."

Judith Martin, Gilbert (1982)

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"Miss Manners cannot think of a more succinct definition of a lady than 'someone who wants to punch another person in the nose, but doesn't.'"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"In its natural state, the child tells the literal truth because it is too naive to think of anything else. Blurting out the complete truth is considered adorable in the young, right smack up to the moment that the child says, 'Mommy, is this the fat lady you can't stand?'"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"Adorable children are considered to be the general property of the human race. (Rude children belong to their mothers.)"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"... everyone old enough to have a secret is entitled to have some place to keep it."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"A wedding invitation is beautiful and formal notification of the desire to share a solemn and joyous occasion, sent by people who have been saying 'Do we have to ask them?' to people whose first response is 'How much do you think we have to spend on them?'"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"Show Miss Manners a grown-up who has happy memories of teenage years, with their endless round of merry-making and dancing the night away, and Miss Manners will show you a person who has either no heart or no memory."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Rearing Perfect Children (1984)

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"I have always believed that the key to a happy marriage was the ability to say with a straight face, 'Why, I don't know what you're worrying about. I thought you were very funny last night and I'm sure everybody else did, too.'"

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"What you have when everyone wears the same playclothes for all occasions, is addressed by nickname, expected to participate in Show and Tell, and bullied out of any desire for privacy, is not democracy; it is kindergarten."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"One should not be assigned one's identity in society by the job slot one happens to fill. If we truly believe in the dignity of labor, any task can be performed with equal pride because none can demean the basic dignity of a human being."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"Charming villains have always had a decided social advantage over well-meaning people who chew with their mouths open."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"In point of fact, we are all born rude. No infant has ever appeared yet with the grace to understand how inconsiderate it is to disturb others in the middle of the night."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"Honesty has come to mean the privilege of insulting you to your face without expecting redress ..."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"The idea that people can behave naturally, without resorting to an artificial code tacitly agreed upon by their society, is as silly as the idea that they can communicate by a spoken language without commonly accepted semantic and grammatical rules."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"Like language, a code of manners can be used with more or less skill, for laudable or for evil purposes, to express a great variety of ideas and emotions. In itself, it carries no moral value, but ignorance in use of this tool is not a sign of virtue."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"Perhaps the greatest rudenesses of our time come not from the callousness of strangers, but from the solicitousness of intimates who believe that their frank criticisms are always welcome, and who feel free to 'be themselves' with those they love, which turns out to mean being their worst selves, while saving their best behavior for strangers."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"The simple idea that everyone needs a reasonable amount of challenging work in his or her life, and also a personal life, complete with noncompetitive leisure, has never really taken hold."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"Meanwhile, the empty forms of social behavior survive inappropriately in business situations. We all know that when a business sends its customers 'friendly reminders,' it really means business."

Judith Martin, Common Courtesy (1985)

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"When you consider how epidemic boredom is in our time, you have to concede that entertaining is a healing art."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"Greece is a good place for rebirths."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"It has always puzzled me, in my business, that people think they have to answer questions, no matter how disagreeable or dangerous, just because they were asked. Of course, we journalists would be out of business if they didn't."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"Washington knows that it is not safe to kick people who are down until you find out what their next stop will be."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"You don't want to look too chic at a Washington party or people will think you don't have a job worth losing."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"Nowadays, you form your beliefs to fit your behavior, not the other way around."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"... people, in forming their opinions of others, are usually lazy enough to go by whatever is most obvious or whatever chance remark they happen to hear. So the best policy is to dictate to others the opinion you want them to have of you."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"You think death is any better an excuse for desertion than any other?"

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"We have the reverse of the Puritan work ethic in America now. No one ever becomes a star by plugging along year after year. What is needed is flair, talent, 'an eye,' contacts, charisma, and, most of all, naturalness."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"It is well known that a mother with fatherless children drove some man away with her bitchiness, while a father with motherless children is the tender victim of some selfish woman."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"Everybody's an art critic."

Judith Martin, Style and Substance: A Comedy of Manners (1986)

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"There is nothing like a good friend to help you out when you are not in trouble."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"Let us put a stop right now to that dreadful practice of serving half-peeled shrimp. Miss Manners has encountered these pink tricks a few times too many lately ... There the sly creatures all are, snoozing cozily on beds of shredded lettuce, or perhaps getting their exercise by hanging from their tails on the edge of miniature bird baths filled with cocktail sauce. ... Miss Manners can think of no motivation on the cook's part except pure meanness."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"While we are at it, where is the salad knife? Evil people are forever putting lettuce wedges and other booby traps into salads, and then demanding that they be eaten with the unaided fork. Is it all that funny to watch people squirt salad dressing into their eyes?"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"It is not rude to turn off your telephone by switching it on to an answering machine, which is cheaper and less disruptive than ripping it out of the wall. Those who are offended because they cannot always get through when they seek, at their own convenience, to barge in on people are suffering from a rude expectation."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"The invention of the teenager was a mistake, in Miss Manners' opinion. She has nothing against people of that age; indeed, she is quite foolishly fond of some such individuals. It is not teenagers whom she wishes to abolish, but only the category. Once you identify a period of life in which people have few restrictions and, at the same time, few responsibilities -- they get to stay out late but don't have to pay taxes -- naturally, nobody wants to live any other way. Thus we now have the equally unappetizing spectacles of small children and grown-ups unsuccessfully imitating teenage dress, speech, and social rites, while teenagers themselves have little motivation to learn the trappings of adulthood."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"What great fun it is for those of us old enough to appreciate nap time to imagine wild, free youth out there overflowing with exuberant emotions and happily struggling in vain to suppress the madcap ways they keep inventing to express them. Unfortunately, however, the real chief social problem of youth is the habit of standing around looking stupid. Mind you, Miss Manners is not accusing anyone of actually being stupid. Tuning out of conversations that do not immediately concern one, responding minimally to banalities, and utterly relaxing the features whenever possible, short of allowing the tongue to loll outside the mouth, may be defended as rational behavior. ... Standing around looking stupid, however, is an extremely impractical social posture. Adults invariably interpret it as representing stupidity, or at least contempt for themselves, which they naturally believe to be the same thing. It is not a wise idea to leave this impression on adults, not so much because they have feelings but because they have beach houses, summer jobs to give out, places in schools to allot, and the ability and opportunity to air damaging opinions in front of their own children."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you may wear white shoes. Not before and not after. As a command, the White Shoe Edict should be clear and simple enough. Do not violate it. In a society in which everything else has become relative, a matter of how it makes you feel, a question between you and your conscience, and an opportunity for you to be really you, this is an absolute."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"The challenge of manners is not so much to be nice to someone whose favor and/or person you covet (although more people need to be reminded of that necessity than one would suppose) as to be exposed to the bad manners of others without imitating them."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"Miss Manners refuses to allow society to seek its own level. Having peered through her lorgnette into the abyss, she can guess how low that level will be."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"It is a widespread and firm belief among guests that their departure is always a matter of distress to their hosts, and that in order to indicate that they have been pleasantly entertained, they must demonstrate an extreme unwillingness to allow the entertainment to conclude. This is not necessarily true."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide for the Turn-of-the-Millennium (1989)

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"Precision marching is less important for the bridal party than maintaining the proper facial expresssions: The bridegroom must look awed; the bridesmaids, happy and excited; the father of the bride, proud; and the bride, demure. If the bridegroom feels doubtful, the bridesmaids, sulky, the father, worried, and the bride, blasé, nobody wants to know."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners on Weddings (1995)

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"It doesn't matter whether the bride or the bridegroom writes the letters of thanks for wedding presents provided that these go out immediately after the arrival of each present and are not in the handwriting of the bride's mother."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners on Weddings (1995)

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"Yes, etiquette is hypocritical. Yes, it does inhibit children -- if you're lucky. But the idea that it's elitist and irrelevant is like saying language is elitist and irrelevant."

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"Etiquette enables you to resolve conflict without just trading insults. Without etiquette, the irritations in modern life are so abrasive that you see people turning to the law to regulate everyday behavior. This frightens me; it's a major inroad on our basic freedoms."

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"... it's no longer socially acceptable to make bigoted statements and racist remarks. Some people are having an awful time with that: 'I didn't know anybody would be offended!' Well, where have you been? I remember when people got away with it and they don't anymore. That's fabulous."

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"Honesty is a virtue, but not the only one. If you're in a courtroom you need the whole truth and nothing but the truth; in the living room, sometimes you need anything but. Often."

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"The etiquette of intimacy is very different from the etiquette of formality, but manners are not just something to show off to the outside world. If you offend the head waiter, you can always go to another restaurant. If you offend the person you live with, it's very cumbersome to switch to a different family."

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"People will say, 'Seventy isn't old, it's middle-aged,' and I think, middle of what -- 140?"

Judith Martin, in Susan Goodman, "Judith Martin," Modern Maturity (1996)

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"The one prediction that never comes true is, 'You'll thank me for telling you this.'"

Judith Martin, syndicated column (1996)

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"To sacrifice the principles of manners, which require compassion and respect, and bat people over the head with their ignorance of etiquette rules they cannot be expected to know is both bad manners and poor etiquette. That social climbers and twits have misused etiquette throughout history should not be used as an argument for doing away with it."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Visiting the sick is supposed to exhibit such great virtue that there are some people determined to do it whether the sick like it or not. ... All visitors everywhere are supposed to make plans to depart if they observe their hosts visibly wilting or in pain, but this is especially true at hospitals."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Miss Manners has come to believe that the basic political division in the society is not between liberals and conservatives but between those who believe that they should have a say in the love lives of strangers and those who do not."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"... the obligation to express gratitude deepens with procrastination. The longer you wait, the more effusive must be the thanks."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"[The President of the United States] gets off easier than his wife, to whom we traditionally assign ceremonial tasks so we can scorn her for being frivolous -- when we're not complaining that she has no business interesting herself in substantive state matters because nobody elected her to office."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Society cannot exist without etiquette ... It never has, and until our own century, everybody knew that."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Smart people duck when they hear the dread announcement 'I'm going to be perfectly honest with you.'"

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Shame is the proper reaction when one has purposefully violated the accepted behavior of society. Inflicting it is etiquette's response when its rules are disobeyed. The law has all kinds of nasty ways of retaliating when it is disregarded, but etiquette has only a sense of social shame to deter people from treating others in ways they know are wrong. So naturally Miss Manners wants to maintain the sense of shame. Some forms of discomfort are fully justified, and the person who feels shame ought to be dealing with removing its causes rather than seeking to relieve the symptoms."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Knowing that others have gone through similar tragedies may be a help, but it should be remembered that every tragedy is not only commonplace but also unique."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"Those on the search for a good shock have been trying to undo the greatest etiquette advance of our age, the condemnation of bigotry. When the nostalgic moan about the decline of etiquette, Miss Manners turns contrary and points out that it is only recently that frank expressions of prejudice have become socially unacceptable. That lascivious and bigoted statements no longer pass uncensured is enormous progress. To be sure, there are people who cannot spell and who therefore equate censureship with censorship. They do not understand that an etiquette rule is not the same as a law and that disapproval and the desire to keep rude people at a distance are not the same as throwing them in jail."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"When politeness is used to show up other people, it is reclassified as rudeness. Thus it is technically impossible to be too polite."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners Rescues Civilization (1996)

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"A lot of men got upset at the feminist movement because they had all the toys and we wanted some."

Judith Martin, in Ms. (1997)

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"The etiquette business has its emergencies, heaven knows, but it is in the nature of etiquette emergencies that once one realizes what one has done, it is too late. One might as well get a good night's sleep and send flowers with an apology in the morning."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Basic Training: Communication (1997)

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"Screening telephone calls with a receptionist or the humbler answering machine is not a dishonorable thing to do. The warmest people in the world still need uninterrupted time to attend to their lives and should not be outwitted if they have made it obvious that they are not always available upon summons."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Basic Training: Communication (1997)

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"Miss Manners has never cared for the argument that it is honest to do something unpleasant in plain view and hypocritical to do it out of sight. There is nothing honest and a lot that is rude about leaving the bathroom door open."

Judith Martin, syndicated column (1997)

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"Etiquette is about all of human social behavior. Behavior is regulated by law when etiquette breaks down or when the stakes are high -- violations of life, limb, property and so on. Barring that, etiquette is a little social contract we make that we will restrain some of our more provocative impulses in return for living more or less harmoniously in a community."

Judith Martin, in Psychology Today (1998)

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"The whole country wants civility. Why don't we have it? It doesn't cost anything. No federal funding, no legislation is involved. One answer is the unwillingness to restrain oneself. Everybody wants other people to be polite to them, but they want the freedom of not having to be polite to others."

Judith Martin, in Psychology Today (1998)

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"People think, mistakenly, that etiquette means you have to suppress your differences. On the contray, etiquette is what enables you to deal with them; it gives you a set of rules."

Judith Martin, in Psychology Today (1998)

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"People say when you're in love, you don't need etiquette. Well, you need it then more than anything. Or they say, 'At home I can just be myself.' What they mean is they can be their worst selves. ... They always mean they will save all their anxiety about how to behave for somebody like the head waiter of a restaurant, someone they'll never see again."

Judith Martin, in Psychology Today (1998)

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"Originality is not everything. The words hosts most want to hear when the evening is over are 'Thank you, I had a wonderful time' and 'Good night.' "

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Basic Training: The Right Thing to Say (1998)

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"... a person who doesn't feel rejected doesn't go away. A painless rejection isn't one."

Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Basic Training: The Right Thing to Say (1998)

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"It is said that dispensing advice is easy. What is difficult is getting anyone to listen to it."

Judith Martin, Star-Spangled Manners (2003)

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"Allowing an unimportant mistake to pass without a comment is a wonderful social grace ... Children who have the habit of constantly correcting should be stopped before they grow up to drive spouses and everyone else crazy by interrupting stories to say, 'No, dear -- it was Tuesday, not Wednesday.'"

Judith Martin

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"It's far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help."

Judith Martin, in Cosmopolitan (1991)

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"Should you happen to notice that another person is extremely tall or overweight, eats too much or declines convivial drinks, has red hair or goes about in a wheelchair, ought to get married or ought not to be pregnant -- see if you can refrain from bringing these astonishing observations to that person's attention."

Judith Martin

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Judith Martin, U.S. etiquette authority, social philosopher, writer
(1938 - )

Judith Martin is best known as the inimitable, witty Miss Manners.