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Friend's kid a riot to behold

Dear Miss Manners: A friend asked me to take her daughter to a school event with my children. I said yes and added, "But first you have to read her the Riot Act."

She asked what I meant. I explained that the last time she and I had eaten dinner at a restaurant together with our respective children, every time she left the table, Trixy misbehaved, throwing sesame seeds at me and my children, grabbing my daughter and initiating a wrestling match with her, and making distasteful comments about the food's looking like "spit."

She defended her daughter as "playful," saying, "I guess we just have different standards." When I said I simply wished to be sure that she would behave when I am responsible for her at the school event, she curtly said she would find someone else to take her. She is now angry with me and refuses to speak to me. Was I wrong?

Gentle Reader: Or just lucky?

If Miss Manners had a friend whose standard of behavior included hurling food, blows and insults, she would be only too grateful for the silent treatment and the knowledge that someone else will assume the job of being the child's target.

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Using the right language

Dear Miss Manners: I work as a hotel's chief concierge and have always tried to be proper in dealings with our guests. We were taken to task regarding the use of "folks" as a form of address, and I understand the concern. But we have yet to be presented with an alternative!

The English language just doesn't work sometimes. How do you greet a couple when they approach the concierge desk? Or a group of three that are not of the same sex? (If it's all male, then "Good morning, gentlemen" or "Good morning, ladies" if they are women works just fine) -- but what of our couple -- "Good morning Mr. & Mrs?" I don't think so. Almost every other language has a word (m'sieur dame, signora signore) even Japanese has "minnasama."

So I pose the question to you -- what do you do? Oh yes, great if you know their name "Good morning, Mr. & Mrs. McGillicuddy" but if you don't -- and there is our dilemma, Miss Manners, in a nutshell.

Gentle Reader: The English language works fine -- you just have to use more of it. "Good morning, madam; good morning, sir." Or in the case of two and one, "Good morning madam; good morning, gentlemen." Miss Manners points out that the added effort will give you the opportunity to direct a smile at each of them.

e-mail: missmanners@unitedmedia.com.

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