How To Cultivate An Elegant Turn Of Phrase

Who doesn’t aspire to the dizzy heights of the well-spoken, Gentle Reader?


Oh, dear.

Nonetheless, an elegant turn of phrase is a delight to the ear, and much in demand in all of the best circles. How on Earth can one achieve a smoother style of speech? I have just a few handy hints for you that ought to result in a more polished patter.

1. Expand Your Vocabulary


While this seems self-evident, it’s also often over-looked. The cornerstone of elegant conversation lies in using words both beautiful and surprising – you want to delight, to inform, engage, and entertain – you want to captivate the attention of your reader or listener through language. Therefore, spice it up. We’re not just talking venerable five-dollar words, either – though lost words like advesperate please the ear, very few people actually know what they mean. Instead, words that are well-known and underused, such as diversion, work best.

Suggested Speech: Cultivate; Litany; Delight; Observed

2. An Old-Fashioned Approach


Elegance, typically, is strongly styled on the most strictly conservative mores and morals in recent memory, coupled with a streak of independence and an original voice. The idea is to let your individual ideas and style shine more brightly against an understated backdrop – a sort of splash of color that catches the eye. Think of a carnation in the lapel of a well-tailored suit – the carnation’s what you remember. If the suit were wrinkly, baggy, torn, ill-fitting, or garish, the carnation would be lost. Remember, we must learn the rules, so that we may know in which way to most successfully break them.

Suggested Speech: I beg your pardon; ever so much; I’m so terribly sorry; How do you do?

3. Stylistic Devices


Anaphora, Assonance, and Alliteration, specifically. They are your friends, and you will come to appreciate them.

Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase to add more force or meaning to the whole. For example:

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”

– Sir Winston Churchill


Sir Winston Churchill

Assonance and Alliteration are essentially the same thing, although assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds – any vowel sounds, generally – and alliteration is the repetition of consonants. They lend a lovely light to the liquid tones dripping off one’s tongue, n’est-ce pas? 

Suggested Speech: Go forth and indulge in fascinating conversations! I’m certain you’ll captivate your next cocktail party.

4. Foreign Phrases

If you’re confident, you can cultivate a little je ne sais quoi in your speech by dropping in foreign phrases. To be sure, you must be certain of what they mean and how to use them, and one must never be pretentious about it, but it does create a little sparkle, a little sizzle.

Personally, I think French is the most elegant, but that’s likely because I’m familiar with it.

Suggested Speech: N’est-ce Pas?; Je ne sais quoi; Quelle Dommage!

5. A Well-Stocked Cache of Phrases


Whenever you run across a beautiful phrase – in a book, in a poem, in the park, in your head – write it down. Think it to yourself, often – often enough for it to trace itself deeply on your shining synapses. Eventually, they will rise naturally to your tongue in conversation.

Suggested Speech: Litany of Resentment; gorgeous chaos; all centuries but this and every country but his own; electrical splendor

And there you have it, Gentle Reader. Go forth and indulge in fascinating conversations! I’m certain you’ll captivate your next cocktail party.


About Ty DeLyte

Madame DeLyte has suffered a grave disappointment - YET AGAIN - and still believes that freedom, beauty, and truth are what's valuable, rather than vulgar cash. He'd add love to that list - but, well, what can he say about love?
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