Please support the Valley News during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the local economy — and many of the advertisers who support our work — to a near standstill. During this unprecedented challenge, we continue to make our coronavirus coverage free to everyone at because we feel our most critical mission is to deliver vital information to our communities.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, we are asking for your support. Please consider subscribing or making a donation today. Learn more at the links below.

Thank you for your support of the Valley News.

Dan McClory, publisher

Miss Manners: Pronounce Colleague’s Name Properly

Published: 6/16/2018 10:14:39 AM
Modified: 6/16/2018 10:14:39 AM

Dear Miss Manners: I work with someone overseas whose name, properly pronounced in his language, sounds like a word that causes blushing among English speakers. Is it acceptable to mispronounce his name to avoid causing offense?

Gentle Reader: Surely, if this gentleman does business in the States — or has ever watched any American cable television — he is familiar with the problem.

You pointing it out or purposely mispronouncing his name is not likely to improve relations. Miss Manners suggests that you continue to pronounce his name correctly — and take his calls behind closed doors so as not to invoke immature titters amongst your colleagues.

Dear Miss Manners: I work in the health care field, which requires me to wear scrubs every day. I have a co-worker, Tracy, who looks very similar to me, and is part of many groups and hosts many activities. On multiple occasions, other people have confused me for her.

Normally, what I do when this happens is to say, very kindly and gently, “I’m sorry. I’m afraid you have me mistaken for Tracy, as I am not part of the (whatever activity/group). My name is Sherry. It’s very nice to meet you.”

However, another co-worker told me that it’s more polite to pretend that you know the person speaking, and continue the conversation in order to spare the other person’s embarrassment.

I personally don’t feel that it’s right to pretend to know someone that I do not, but I don’t want the other person to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable when they make this mistake. What does Miss Manners think?

Gentle Reader: That participating in a fraudulent conversation will prove to be far more embarrassing, once it is revealed, than politely correcting a simple mistake up-front. Miss Manners heartily recommends that you ignore your co-worker’s poor advice. And double-check his or her signatures on any important documents.

Dear Miss Manners: Can you weigh in on the trend of asking (or even just assuming) that the sibling of an invited child also attend a party?

Some party plans can easily absorb an extra guest into the activities and food, making it easy to be gracious; however, some party plans are more specific. For example, we recently hosted a party with very few guests because the planned activities required a lot of personalized preparation, such as making things for each child. The casual “Can so-and-so come as well?” made complying with the request not-so-casual for me! Even worse, it was well after the RSVP date, and the sibling and my child barely know one another.

I knew I would feel bad or irritated whatever my answer. I chose to act nice, yet seethe in private. What is the best way to handle these requests?

Gentle Reader: “I am so sorry, but I am afraid that we only have room for the children we invited. But we would love to get together with little Gigi on another day. Do the children know each other well?”

Dear Miss Manners: We were invited to a “bridal couples’ shower” as friends of the groom’s parents. I take pride in trying to find the perfect gift.

After we arrived, the mother of the groom asked us if we would mind if the gifts weren’t opened during the shower. She said the couple was “too shy to open gifts in front of everyone.” She added that we would receive a very nice thank-you card.

I was surprised and disappointed, as I would have liked to see them open our gift. Is this the norm for our upcoming newlywed generation?

Gentle Reader: On the contrary — these young people grew up with the ritual of children opening birthday presents in front of their guests, and many have concluded that it should be abandoned.

It depends too much on the young host’s being able to express gratitude, even if disappointed and in case of duplicates, and on the guests’ being able to suppress envy. In addition, it sets up an implied rivalry among the guests.

So while these are behavioral lessons to be learned, Miss Manners approves of using the occasion instead to teach how to entertain and be guests and to write letters of thanks.

That your grown-up friends are skipping this questionable ritual seems sensible to Miss Manners. It should not have been necessary for the mother to explain that appreciation of your present would be expressed in a letter.

Dear Miss Manners: A friend of mine told me that her 19-year-old daughter had received a gift (on no special occasion) of a Tiffany necklace and pendant from a man she had been dating for two months.

My immediate reaction is that my mother would have made me return such a gift as inappropriate. My friend doesn’t see this as a problem, and I can’t find anyone else who understands my mother’s rule on the subject. Is it outdated now?

Gentle Reader: Speaking of outdated — is it possible, in the light of recent public revelations, that the mother of a teenager believes that there are no strings attached to such a present?

Of course, she should have known anyway. But Miss Manners presumes that the “outdating” that you suggest refers to the naive belief that all relations between the genders should be carefree, and that power — in this case in the form of money — is not a factor. Surely that has been dispelled.

Dear Miss Manners: We are invited to a formal wedding. It will be a fun evening. I was thinking of wearing a white dinner jacket. My wife says “no,” and that I should stick with black and not stand out.

She’s probably right, but I still think it would be fun to wear white. What do you think of white dinner jackets, in general?

Gentle Reader: That they are fine for waiters and band members with summer engagements. And that “fun” is not a proper guideline for a gentleman’s appearance.

Dear Miss Manners: Is it rude to not return a “hi” to a co-worker who has abused you terribly?

Gentle Reader: Technically, the “cut direct,” as this is known, is recognized within the manners realm as an extreme weapon. It means that the person is not recognized as being in the world of civilized behavior. If Hitler tries to shake hands with you, you turn your back and walk away.

You should know that a lesser weapon is possible, which is to respond coldly and curtly. This would seem better in regard to people with whom you still have to work. But as you have not told Miss Manners the nature of the abuse you suffered, she does not know if the nuclear weapon is justified.

Dear Miss Manners: I enjoy cooking and entertaining, and have always honored guests’ dietary restrictions at my table as they are brought to my attention (vegetarian, vegan, food allergies, etc.). Recently, I have been asked in both personal and professional settings to provide special foods for guests’ weight-loss regimens. Is this reasonable?

Gentle Reader: If you are prepared to cook individually tailored meals for everyone who asks, you should be in the restaurant business.

It is not that Miss Manners believes that one shouldn’t make a reasonable effort to accommodate one’s guests. Nowadays, it is advisable to ask in advance if they have any food restrictions and to vary the dishes so that no one goes hungry.

But guests also have a responsibility to be accommodating. If their restrictions are such that they cannot manage a meal unless it is specifically tailored to their requirements, they should eat beforehand and attend for the sociability.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband died at the age of 80. He was a highly esteemed professor emeritus, and I will be hosting a celebration of his life in a facility on campus. There will be two dozen speakers, followed by a reception with food and wine during two hours on a Friday afternoon.

From correspondences received after his death, it appears that there will be perhaps 200 people attending this function, many of whom will travel significant distances, even fully across the country.

My son feels that there should be an after-party for those who are from very far out of town. I, too, feel it will be awkward for people who have traveled long distances to be abandoned, but feel overwhelmed as to how this might be arranged.

Gentle Reader: There is no formula for determining when to stop once an event, any event, has grown beyond the range of the local bus routes. Brides, having presumably lost their heads once over their husbands-to-be, are oddly susceptible to losing it a second time over the celebrations. The ceremony and reception are supplemented by possibly necessary information about local accommodations, which becomes group hotel purchases, which become lists of local restaurants, which become after-parties, which become other local entertainment, which become bridal trips to the water park the day after.

But in spite of the nomenclature — “celebration of life,” “after-party” — yours is not such a happy occasion. There is a mourner — you — whom the other mourners (note Miss Manners does not say “guests”) are there to support, not burden. State funerals are multi-day affairs, but they are also not planned by the grieving widow. It is up to you to decide how much additional entertaining you can do, and up to the attendees to respect your decision.

Dear Miss Manners: My in-laws frequently gift us with physically large gifts for our young children. These have ranged from extremely large toys to a nice kids’ table and chairs that we really just don’t have room for, and frankly don’t want.

I understand they are being very generous, and in the past, I’ve just said “thank you” and tried to work it in. The problem is this stuff is just so big that it’s piling up, and it’s also obvious if we’ve gotten rid of it.

Is it ever appropriate to talk about gift-giving before or after gifts have been given? Does it matter that these are my husband’s parents, whom we have a good relationship with, and also that these are gigantic presents? If we’re to say nothing, do I just act evasive when they ask where the trampoline is? And what do I tell my kids to say?

Gentle Reader: The size can be an asset instead of a liability. Identify a fixed, preferably prominent, location as the Grandparents’ Gift Corner. When next year’s gift arrives, remove and replace last year’s. Miss Manners trusts that the reverence thus given to each year’s gift — as well as the logic behind the arrangement — will blunt any questions about the accumulating pile in the basement.

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I have a perpetual disagreement about who should say something first when a person bites her/his tongue at the dinner table and then exclaims out loud in a most jarring way.

He thinks the companion should offer sympathy to the tongue-biter first, and then the tongue-biter can apologize for disrupting the table. I think the opposite. What do you think? This crops up more often than you might expect and has become a wedge between us.

Gentle Reader: It comes up quite a bit more often than Miss Manners would think, if it troubles you enough to write to her about it. (What are you putting in the food?) But since it does, the tongue-biter should go first — presuming from your description that the disruption is of a nature to require an apology.

Miss Manners recognizes that this gives the biter less time to recover before speaking, and wonders if, given the large amount of practice your husband is getting, he might not devote some time to toning down his reaction.

Dear Miss Manners: We understand the occasional need for a host to cancel a dinner party at the last minute. But when we received last-minute cancellations on two occasions during the past year with the explanation being that “the other guests could not make it,” we felt jilted.

We enjoy socializing with this couple, and avoid commenting about their canceled parties. However, we consider this rude behavior, and thought that an impartial opinion would serve us well.

Gentle Reader: It is to avoid this problem that hosts have secret “A” and “B” lists: so that empty places can be filled when guests decline an invitation without disenfranchising those who said “yes.”

This does not explain the problem cropping up at the last minute, unless perhaps the other guests were all arriving on the same canceled flight. In that case, Miss Manners counsels the host to explain the situation and apologetically offer a specific alternate date. Otherwise, she agrees that your erstwhile host’s behavior is rude.

Miss Manners is written by Judith Martin, her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. You are invited to email your etiquette questions from, if you promise to use the black or blue-black ink you’ll save by writing those thank you, condolence and congratulations letters you owe.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2019 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy