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IN THE NAME OF FAIRNESS

Dear Miss Manners: The hospital in which I work has instituted a new format for its identification badges. The wearer's first name is now presented in large, bold print, whereas the last name and degree, e.g., RN or MD, are small and barely visible.

According to those responsible for this change, "the format on the system has been set up for all first names to be slightly larger to provide better visibility to the patient."

Why this needs be is a question begged. One wonders if the onerous, reciprocal transgression, that of health care workers addressing patients by their first names, has somehow exacted an ironical price.

Gentle Reader: Of course it has. Long after such inequality was abolished in other places of work - where bosses had routinely demanded to be addressed formally while they called their employees, especially female employees, by their first names - doctors continued to get away with it. Miss Manners is only surprised that patients took this lying down for so long.

The situation needed to be rectified, but, unfortunately the method used, in your hospital and elsewhere, is not to grant titles of respect to all, but to grant them to none. The real price paid here is in dignity.

The wrong type

Dear Miss Manners: Nowadays, it's common for friends to trade Internet "screen names" in the same manner they would exchange phone numbers. The idea, as you are doubtlessly aware, is that when both people are online, they type messages to each other.

The trouble that I'm having is that I type very quickly and accurately, and I keep my English skills in check at all times.

This is a problem because it's very trendy and popular to abbreviate just about everything that can possibly be abbreviated. "You" turns into "u." "Two," "too," and "to" all turn into "2"s and so on.

In most cases, such as in writing out a formal letter or thesis, near-perfect English is a strength rather than a weakness, but I don't want to make the person I'm talking with feel like I'm trying to impress them or (worse yet), make them feel inadequate and self-conscious.

I have resorted to actually purposefully making typographical errors and slowing down my typing speed, but I feel like I'm lying to them whenever I do that. I even asked my mother - who is somewhat well-versed in social protocol - and she accused me of being pompous and arrogant for even thinking that I type "too quickly for them." All I want to do is make my conversational partner feel comfortable! Please, Miss Manners, what is the solution?

Gentle Reader: Listening to mamma. Like Miss Manners, she believes in doing what is right, without getting all puffed up about it.

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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