Letters From the Book of Etiquette

Python helped me to find the poetry within Emily Post’s Etiquette.

First, I ran a script that output a dictionary of words that appear more than 10 times, sorted by how often they appear. I scanned this dictionary and grouped my favorites into lists. I also created a list of lines leading up to ‘rests’ (commas and colons) and periods so that I could control the pacing amidst the randomness. Here is a randomly generated poem from the ‘rest’ list:

greet each other by waving their arms aloft,
the names acquired in her own social life.
and ardor:
Guests.
silver buffer,
salad which is cold,
that of their intimates,
If because of illness or absence,
class),
part in it, as it is supposed to be bad luck.

I decided to create a series of mini-poems that follow a certain structure. Each starts with the word Dear…

Dear Miss Strange:
order.
The best type of young men pay few,
friends nearby.
Old-fashioned sentiment prefers that it be white,
leg in his finger
written in full,
change that has taken place. In case of a very small funeral
weather,
smaller letters than the name.

Dear Mrs. Town:
look for untruth. To
save your efforts for the next fancy dress ball,
people of position are people of position the
ground floor,
is put the salad fork, the meat
writes in something else. If she has any orders or criticisms to make,
advance–whether here or in Europe
is the first requisite in table-manners,
corridor.

Dear Sir:
order.
because of their distinction and smartness,
people strictly observe this rule.
ARE HONEST,
manner obtrudes upon her, he lifts his hat
first two go up the chancel steps and stand at the top; one on the right,
London is the home
manners,
half way when already Mlle.

Dear Mrs. Kindhart (or Martha):
always introduce:
or washing in a little tin basin,
people who deport themselves abominably, who
a crate to cross the ocean,
However, to go back to table setting: A cloth
of gold brocade,
In the world of smart society–in America
In going to inquire for sick people,
5.

Dear Mrs. Brown:
give most of their time to their grown and growing
melting-pot,
servant’s right hand;
those at the bridge tables. They all say,
(instead of the fruit knife and fork
Other pet offenses are drumming on the table with one’s fingers,
five o’clock,” “Mrs. Jones will be home
trunks,
everywhere.

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