Speaking mannerisms are of two kinds, those of manner, of course, and
those which by a metaphorical use of the term may be called mannerisms
"The memory," said the quaint old Fuller, "must be located in the back
of the head, because there men dig for it." Some speakers appear to
imagine it can be found in the links of a watch chain, or observed in
the chinks in the ceiling.
Most mannerisms are undesirable and very few have any value. As they are
usually formed early, one should look out for them at the outset and nip
them in the bud, before they have a chance to become fixed habits.
I often notice myself running my fingers through my hair about the
opening sentence, as though I could thereby loosen up my brain.
Debs speaks a good deal doubled up like the corner of a square--a
mannerism that probably has its origin, partly in a body weary from
overwork, and partly from a desire to get closer to the auditors on the
Mannerisms of matter are very common and many speakers seem to take no
trouble to avoid them.
Many speakers become so addicted to certain hackneyed phrases that those
used to hearing them speak can see them coming sentences away. One of
the hardest ridden of these is, "along those lines." I have heard
speakers overwork that sentence until I never hear it without a shudder
and if I used it myself it would be to refer to car lines, and even then
I should prefer "those tracks."
G. W. Woodbey, our colored speaker of "what to do and how to do it"
fame, never speaks an hour without asking at least thirty times, "Do you
understand?" but the inimitable manner in which he pokes his chin
forward as he does so usually convulses his audience and makes a virtue
of what would otherwise be a defect. The veteran speaker Barney Berlyn
says, every little while, "you understand," but he is so terribly in
earnest, and so forceful in his style, that no one but a cold blooded
critic would ever notice it.
Another speaker I know in the west, asks his audience about every ten
minutes, "Do you get my point?" This is very irritating, as it is really
a constant questioning of the audience's ability to see what he is
driving at. It would be much better to say, "Do I make myself
understood?" and put the blame for possible failure where it usually
belongs. If an audience fails to "get the point" it is because the
speaker failed to put it clearly.
A terribly overworked word is "proposition." It is a good word, but that
is no reason why it should be treated like a pack mule.
Hackneyed words and phrases are due to laziness in construction and a
The remedy is to take pains in forming sentences, practice different
ways of stating the same thing, increase your stock of words by "looking
up" every new one.
The lecturer should always have a good dictionary within reach,
especially when reading, if he has to borrow the money to buy it.
Next: Course Lecturing No Chairman