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Originally published Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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When Miss Manners simply doesn't cut it

If you're distressed by the lack of etiquette in today's society and seeking advice, you're probably better off with Emily Post. If you've accepted our...

Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot

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If you're distressed by the lack of etiquette in today's society and seeking advice, you're probably better off with Emily Post. If you've accepted our culture's plummet into rude and unseemly behavior, though, Lady Arabella Snark is here with a guide.

"The Perfect Insult for Every Occasion: Lady Snark's Guide to Common Discourtesy" (Adams Media, $9.95) offers advice for those social situations — from high-school reunions to confronting your husband's mistress — when thinly veiled hostility is more effective than an old-fashioned notion like politeness.

Lady Snark is the creation of A.C. Kemp, a linguist with a specialty in slang.

While teaching an adult education class on slang for nonnative English speakers she started a Web site, www.slangcity.com, but soon realized her students weren't the only ones using it.

"People would send me weird questions about rap music or slang from the 1900s," she said.

Kemp set out to write a slang book for foreign students, but there was little interest from publishers. Gradually the idea morphed into "The Perfect Insult."

Her agent recommended writing from the perspective of a character, and Lady Snark was born.

"I read all these books (on eccentric socialites) and came up with this character from all the strangest ones I could find," said Kemp, who is now a lecturer at MIT.

The book is full of tips for anyone looking to "deal with annoying persons in a way that utterly crushes them without tarnishing my carefully developed reputation or extending my already lengthy prison sentence."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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