Features


Miss Manners: Invitation seeks response, not critique

MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2010

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I minored in French in college and still remember some of it. I live in California and interact only with strict anglophones. Sometimes when they e-mail me invitations, they say “please RSVP.”

Is it polite to e-mail them back and say, “FYI, please RSVP means please respond please. RSVP is French.”

Most of them have no idea what RSVP stands for, exactly what it means, nor that is in French.

GENTLE READER: Let us suppose that someone who speaks beautiful French were to ask you what “FYI” meant. Would you take that same tone?

“For your information, FYI means ‘for your information.’ FYI is English.”

A mite patronizing?

Miss Manners points this out only because you asked. In contrast, your would-be hosts are not asking for instruction; they are asking whether you are accepting or declining. They do not deserve to have their invitations treated like term papers.

That said, Miss Manners finds it strange that we still use the French abbreviation, a relic from the time that French was thought to be the common language of Western society. It no longer is.

Therefore, she much prefers that such a request be a plain “Please respond” or, in the case of formal invitations, “The favor of a response is requested.” For an American even to use the British spelling, “favour,” strikes her as an unwarranted surrender of our native tongue.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: A restaurant where we dine folds the napkins in such a way that they can be used as an alligator hand puppet. Most tables are set for four, and there are only three of us including my daughter, so after properly placing our napkins in our laps after we sit down, there is still an extra napkin begging to be used as a puppet.

Since there is no rule (that I know of) specifically forbidding the use of spare napkins as alligator puppets, and since we have correctly followed all napkin rules by placing our designated napkins in our laps, I believe that using spare napkins for entertainment purposes is fine. Although my wife cannot cite a specific offense, she still thinks we shouldn’t do it just because it is unusual and out of the ordinary.

Can you please share your opinion on this matter?

GENTLE READER: It is that the restaurant has created what Miss Manners believes is legally known as an attractive nuisance, and, not having cleared the unused place setting, could not expect you to resist the puppet’s begging to be used.

However, if the puppet starts eating from people’s plates, she will have considered that you went too far.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have been married 49 years, with very few cross words between us. Last night I had a dream where my wife severely criticized the way I was removing decorative pillows from the bed. I, in turn, said some very unkind words to her.

Do I owe her an apology or does she owe me one?

GENTLE READER: If you woke your wife up to tell her about it, you owe her an apology. If you did not, you owe Miss Manners an apology for thinking that she would steal upon you in the night and critique your dreams.



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