Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

Find me on…

Get the feed


Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘voice’

How To Cultivate an Agreeable Speech

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

twangslurshoutburr!In 1945, Emily Post’s etiquette book offers pages of advice on words, phrases, and pronunciation. Read this selection carefully, and make sure you enunciate!

1945: How To Cultivate an Agreeable Speech

The often-heard expression, “You know she is a lady as soon as she opens her mouth,” is not an exaggeration. The first requirement for charm of speech is a pleasing voice. A few singing lessons ~ even though you have no gift for music and will never sing a note ~ are of inestimable value in teaching you to place your speaking voice and in teaching you to breathe. A low voice ~ low in pitch, not in range ~ is always more pleasing than one forced up against the ceiling and apparently let out through a steam-vent in the roof! On the other hand, a voice uttered with so little strength that it threatens to be extinguished or so low as to be heard with effort is even more trying. Making yourself heard is chiefly a matter of enunciation; if you breathe properly and pronounce distinctly, a low voice carries well and delights a sensitive ear. Few people with loud voices have any idea that their steam-whistle screaming is not only ear-splitting but, in public, extremely bad form, as it attracts the attention of everyone within shouting radius.

As a nation we do not talk so much too fast, as too loud. Tens of thousands twang and slur and shout and burr! Many of us drawl and many others of us race tongues and breath at full speed, but, as already said, the speed of our speech does not matter so much. Pitch of voice matters very much, and so do pronunciation and enunciation, both of which are absolutely essential to the comfort of the listener.

Source: Post, Emily. Etiquette: The Blue Book of Social Usage. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company,1945.
~ p. 38 ~

Put Heart-Warmth in Your Voice

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

modulate it musicallyStill recovering from getting my wisdom teeth out last weekend, I’ve been doing some jaw exercises to relax the muscles and help lessen the pain. So when I came across this exercise of the voice, I found it helpful. Well, maybe not so helpful, but it sure made me laugh when I tried her suggestions, and so took my mind off the pain. The quote is from the third edition of The Woman You Want to Be: Margery Wilson’s Book of Charm.

1942: Put Heart-Warmth in Your Voice

Your voice reflects emotions as surely as a mirror gives back the image of what is placed before it. No amount of vocal excercises will put ‘soul’ into a voice. The magnetic, warm overtones that can make a homely woman seem charming are the definite results of sweetness, generosity and love of humanity. There is no way to imitate this warmth in the voice. It must come within. Throughout these lessons we bring out certain qualities of mind and character that give this entrancing timbre to the voice.

However, many of our noblest people pitch their voices so badly that the natural sweetness is choked out. It behooves everyone to place the speaking voice correctly and to modulate it musically. Here is an exercise that will take the shrillness and nasal quality out of any voice and lend it to a lovely mellowness.

EXERCISE: Yawn. Hold your throat open and repeat the word ‘mood’ very distinctly three times, pitches as low as you can without growling or producing a false tone. Imagine that the ‘oo’ sound comes from your chest. This vowel opens your throat. Now with your throat in the position it took to say ‘mood’ repeat the word ‘ice’ three times. Again ‘mood’ three times ~ then with the throat in the ‘oo’ position say ‘ice’ three times. Do this ten times. Now say ‘mood’ three times; with the throat in the ‘oo’ position say ‘early’ ~ then substitute the words ‘regular,’ ‘Mary,’ ‘pie,’ ‘fancy’ and ‘three.’ Always say ‘mood’ first and be sure to pronounce distinctly. This exercise will take the shrillness and nasal quality out of any voice and give it a lovely mellowness. Do this regularly and whenever possible and as long as you can without tiring unused muscles. Practice using the principles of contrast in conversation.

Source: Wilson, Margery. The Woman You Want to Be. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1942.
~ pp. 58-59 ~