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Few reasons to whisper at dinner table

Wed., Jan. 2, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it impolite to whisper at the dinner table?

GENTLE READER: Yes, but Miss Manners admits that there are exceptions. You are allowed to whisper, “I think there might be some food caught on your teeth” or, “If you don’t stop putting your hand on my knee I’m going to stab you with my fork.”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When my husband and I went on a cruise, we were seated with several other couples at a large round table for dinner. The others had arrived before we did and, as there was a bread basket on the table, they had chosen their bread plates.

However, some of them had taken the one on the right side of their place setting. My husband was seated on my right and he correctly chose the bread plate to his left, which left me with no bread plate.

How should I have handled this situation? The woman to my left had an unused bread plate to her left, so I asked if I might have that one. This clued her in that she had chosen the wrong one, but it wasn’t made into a big deal.

It seems that many people, even well-educated adults, are unaware or forgetful that their bread plate is to the left of their place setting. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone by saying, “Your bread plate is the one to your left,” but I did want to have some bread and butter with my dinner.

GENTLE READER: But you did get your bread and butter, and the lady to your left does not seem to have died of humiliation. Miss Manners is gratified to know that your effort to acquire a plate unobtrusively triumphed over your impulse to criticize the manners of people who might then be tempted to pitch you overboard.


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