“His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble.”–Thomas Jefferson

I picked up my old copy of Miss Manners: Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior because I haven’t referred to it for several years. Also, I love that her writing style has a somewhat Victorian air. New readers of Judith Martin, aka. Miss Manners, might brace themselves for essays that promote snobbery and superiority. After reading a chapter or two of any of her books, the reader realizes that Martin uses antiquated grammar as a literary device. She’s actually down to earth and practical.

Anyway, whilst skimming through the book, my eyes stopped at the word “deportment”. I love words that are seldom used in contemporary, popular society and archaic terms. I especially enjoy words that look like their definitions. Deportment is one of those words. It is a word that I mentally associate with the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Deportment implies a particular manner of behavior and physical posture. In so-called “high society”, it suggests training that one would receive in a charm school or a military academy. People who are unskillful in exercising their deportment may come off as haughty (another near archaic word) and arrogant. One might say that one’s personal attitude and opinion of oneself manifests in behavior towards others in a practiced manner. One must be careful not to appear stuck up nor demure.

We sometimes notice the lack of skillful deportment as in the displays of envy and resentment among certain of our family members and acquaintances. Certain wealthy individuals may be accused of acting cold and superior towards others. Self awareness (not self-consciousness) of one’s inner attitudes and willingness to practice appropriate etiquette are ways to bettering one’s deportment. To some, this may seem superficial. However, superficiality is transparent and is a measure of poor deportment. Insincerity breeds its own type of suffering. Good deportment stems from compassion and respect for oneself and others.

A person who develops her or his deportment, evolves a refined, dignified simplicity. This works for anyone regardless of social class, occupation, age, gender, ethnicity, and so forth. One might define good deportment in contemporary terms, by presenting oneself as the “best version of yourself”.

In the end, skillful integration of skillful deportment into one’s character provides soft-spoken dignity and furthers one’s self-respect. This helps to enable the same qualities in our acquaintances and friends. Elegant deportment brings warmth and pleasure to others and simultaneously to oneself.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 18th century Genevan composer, philosopher, and writer, Jean Jacques Rousseau. “There is a deportment, which suits the figure and talents of each person it is always lost when we quit to assume that of another.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Friendship and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Deportment

  1. Alien Resort says:

    The word “quaint” came to mind, It not only means charmingly old-fashioned, but it sounds that way too.

  2. Your last paragraph is correct. Unfortunately society doesn’t seem to agree with us. People with terrible deportment are often very popular.

  3. I like Miss Manners’ writing style too! She really is quite practical, not stuffy at all.

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