Mannerisms





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

of matter.



"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

main floor.



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

limited vocabulary.



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.





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