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Dear Miss Manners: When I visited my "perfect hostess" sister, she immediately attended to my needs by serving me a tall glass of iced tea and placing on the table one of those coasters with an elegant picture on one side and a thin layer of cork on the other side.

She set down the coaster picture-side up. I turned it over, cork-side up, set my glass on it, and promptly received a courteous tongue-lashing, telling me that I should have left the coaster picture-side up!

Seems to me that it is much more logical to use the cork side -- it absorbs the moisture and the picture stays pretty. I would appreciate a "ruling" on the correct way to use this type of coaster.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners thought your sister was a perfect hostess, too, right until she got to the tongue-lashing. These do not come in "courteous."

The perfect hostess, or even the halfway decent one, is supposed to honor her guest in big ways and small. Putting the pretty part of the coaster up so that the guest can see it is a small way. Disagreeing politely, which includes treating any guest, even a sister, with respect, even if she happens to be wrong, is a big way.

Address your etiquette questions to Miss Manners, in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. The quill shortage prevents Miss Manners from answering questions except through this column.

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