“Elocution: The study and practice of oral delivery, including control of breath, voice, pronunciation, stance, and gesture (Has he taken elocution lessons?); the way in which someone speaks or reads aloud, especially in public (flawless elocution). An early meaning of the term was literary style as distinct from content, and relates to the Latin meaning of elocutio (‘speaking out’), one of the canons or departments of rhetoric. Elocution training in how to speak ‘properly’ (as in taking elocution lessons) was a feature of education, particularly for girls, in the 18th and 19th century. Shaw, who gave an extended dramatic treatment to elocution in Pygmalion (1912), added to his will in 1913 a clause giving some of the residue of his estate to ‘The substitution or a scientific training in phonetics for the makeshifts of so-called elocution lessons by actors and others who have hitherto prevailed in the teaching of oratory.””

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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