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THE PROPER ORBITS OF BONE DISHES AND BUTTER PLATES

Dear Miss Manners: I recently came into possession of some individual bone dishes and butter dishes. They are very beautiful and I would love to use them. Unfortunately, I have been unable to determine the proper placement of either in a table setting.

Gentle Reader: The crescent shaped bone dish goes to the left of the dinner plate but is not to be confused with the crescent-shaped salad plate, which also goes to the left of the dinner plate. The tiny round individual butter dish, which is not to be confused with the bread plate, goes above the top edge of the dinner plate, where it is not to be confused with the tiny round nut dish or the individual salt dish. Both of these also go above the top edge of the dinner plate.

Whoops. Is that a place setting you have there, or a model of Saturn? Miss Manners regrets to inform you that you have reached the limit in auxiliary dishes and cannot add another.

Vengeance vs. etiquette

Dear Miss Manners: When a friend's son got married last year, several of the guests who RSVP'd that they would attend did not show up and provided no explanation. A few weeks later, one of the no-shows sent an e-mail to my friend soliciting a donation to his church.

My friend responded by sending "No Show" a nasty, sarcastic e-mail saying that he did not appreciate receiving a solicitation from him, particularly when he ended up forking over $150 per person for the cost of the reception. "No Show" replied with an even more sarcastic message, then followed up with a check in the mail for $300 to cover the cost of the reception.

I told my friend he should send the check back and let it go. Instead, he endorsed the check over to his son and told his son it was a wedding gift from one of his friends.

The son, of course, writes a thank-you note for the generous gift. Before the incident, friend and "No Show" were good business acquaintances. I told my friend keeping the check was tacky, and that, while it was unfortunate they did not show up, to learn from the experience and get over it. I went on to say that even though my friend was upset with "No Show," he should never have responded to the e-mail message in such a manner.

My friend thinks what he did is acceptable etiquette. To me, two wrongs don't make a right. My friend usually respects my opinion, but for some reason he's got a bee in his bonnet over this.

Gentle Reader: Of course he's got a bee in his bonnet: He's been stung. But that doesn't make it proper for him to go around stinging others.

Several stings were delivered. There was the sting from the guest who ignored the wedding, which was incredibly rude; the sting from the host who snapped rudely back; and the sting unknowingly endured by his poor son, who was led to treat the profits of blackmail as generosity.

Miss Manners also got a nasty sting from your friend's claim that unspeakable behavior is "acceptable etiquette" as long as it is done to get even.

Exposing the underwear

Dear Miss Manners: We noticed that when men wear an open-collared shirt as "business casual," it exposes the collar of the undershirt. We feel it is sloppy, and there are V-neck undershirts available for a neat look. For a man, exposing the undershirt is comparable to a woman exposing her bra straps while in "business casual" dress.

Gentle Reader: As opposed to exposing her bra straps in social dress? Or as opposed to just going out on the town in her slip?

It is not to disagree with you that Miss Manners mentions such things, but only to expose the extent of the problem. A society where formal dress for ladies consists of what they used to wear before they got dressed is going to have a hard time explaining to gentlemen why they should be embarrassed to have their undershirt collars out. Yet they should be.

Address your questions to Miss Manners, in care of The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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