- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

Please dont talk about President Bush over the vichyssoise.
"As the president was telling me the other day" is one of the top 10 faux pas one can make in polite company when one is at the table, or anywhere else for that matter.
This is according to none other than the Emily Post Institute, which has ranked the phrase No. 9 on its list of "Ten Conversational Blunders," right between "I can see Ill have to simplify this for you" and "You know, like, I mean."
"Well, its that old name-dropping thing," said Peggy Post, great-granddaughter of the famed manners maven. "But in Washington, this could actually be a factual statement in some circles, so we might make a careful exception. For most people, though, it would not be the most gracious thing to say."
Just last month, the good Mrs. Post replicated a White House state dinner from the Reagan administration at the Hay-Adams Hotel, complete with filet mignon and tea sorbet, and an exercise in protocol for a group of Smithsonian Associates.
Perhaps our lawmakers squabble about the proper manifestations of civility on Capitol Hill, but Mrs. Post gives the town an appreciative nod for its built-in formality after her experience.
Still, some rules will prevail.
"Emily Post always said to stop, look and listen before speaking," Mrs. Post said. "Its as simple as that. And deference to rank is never a mistake."
Meanwhile, what not to say has become a high art in our society these days.
There are lists of conversational taboos for funerals, weddings, oral dissertations, hospital rooms and during intimate moments. Recommendations abound for constructive dialogues with troubled children, ex-spouses, errant neighbors, drunks and the owners of unruly dogs.
The Watertown Art Association in Kentucky, for example, offers "13 Things Not to Say to an Artist," which includes such gems as "My kid could do that" and "I dont know anything about art, but I know what I like."
The No. 1 thing not to say to a Lyme disease patient — this according to the National Lyme Disease Information Resource — is the waggish, "Im ticked off."
And there are five things not to say to divorced people, advises Oregon psychiatrist Dr. Herman Frankel.
Forget the phrases "You should have stayed together until the holidays," "You should have stayed together for the sake of the children," "I told you this marriage wouldnt work," "Youre better off this way" and "Too bad youre not celebrating this holiday like a real family."
The lovelorn, meanwhile, can refine their conversations with Phoenix-based relationship counselor Laura Larkin, who advises men to stay silent about their salary, personal problems, bad break-ups and bodily functions, among other things.
"And dont tell her that your favorite hobby is sitting on your rear watching 'A-team re-runs, even if it is," she said.
Career coach Robin Ryan, on the other hand, offers tips for the job interview. One does not bash ones former employer or ask, "What do you do here?"
Timing and silence is everything for entrepreneurs on the golf course.
"Dont talk about business at the beginning of the round," said former pro-golfer and Connecticut loan officer Dennis Postlewait. "Its better to do that between nines or, even better, put it off until you get to the clubhouse."
The top favorite list of verboten verbage, however, is "What Not to Say When Youre Pulled Over by the Police," which has scores of variations.
Do not say, for instance, "Are you Barney or Andy?" or make any reference to the contents of the car trunk, the Village People or radar detection devices.
The American Civil Liberties Union, however, takes the topic seriously. Less is more, they advise.
"Be polite and respectful. Never bad-mouth a police officer," their list reads. "Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions. Dont get into an argument with the police. Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you."


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