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Miss Manners: Nonsmoker needs to control his enthusiasm

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: My spouse is an employee for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. As someone who works for the organization, he feels that he is morally bound to notify every smoker we meet that smoking is dangerous to one’s health. It doesn’t matter how well he knows the individuals, or the nature of the situation.

My perspective is that at this point in time, all smokers are well aware of the dangers of smoking and that pointing out such dangers to them is rude and annoying. Does a 52-year-old, well-educated and informed smoker really need to be reminded of the dangers of smoking while at a cocktail party?

I have asked him to stop doing this when I am with him due to the reaction I have seen on the faces of those he has reminded. He says that if someone else brings it up first, he has every right to throw in his 2 cents on the matter.

I would be very interested in knowing the appropriate way to handle such a situation.

Gentle Reader: When your husband says that others bring up this subject, what exactly does he report their saying?

“I’ve heard that smoking is good for the lungs”?

In that case, he should certainly remark that the opposite is true. If the question is whether he minds if someone smokes in front of him, he can admit quietly that he does. The first qualifies as conversation, and the second as a polite request concerning a matter that affects him.

What he cannot do without being insufferable is to monitor the behavior of other guests. They know that smoking is bad for their health, as are eating that second helping of dessert and propositioning another guest’s spouse. But it is their lookout.

You know all that, so Miss Manners supposes you are hoping for an argument that your husband will accept. You might point out that nagging often has the opposite effect, and that by challenging adults, he may actually be making the problem worse. This will work best if you can mention an example where your nagging him has been ineffective.

Dear Miss Manners: My mother came to this country in the early 1900s with no education. She insisted that we kids put food in our mouth with the fork tines up, never down. My Brit friends call it very wrong. Please advise.

Gentle Reader: Your mother educated herself – and you – correctly about American manners. Your friends are correct about British manners, but they are violating international manners by criticizing your mother. They are also, Miss Manners notices, negating the pleasures of travel by expecting to encounter British manners wherever they go.

Dear Miss Manners: Should a period be used after the “s” in Ms? Some say since it is not a true abbreviation, the period should not be used. Others say yes.

Gentle Reader: It is an abbreviation, so yes. “Ms.” is an abbreviated form for the centuries-old and once-respectable title “Mistress,” of which “Mrs.” is also an abbreviation. Miss Manners’ own title comes from the same word, so she is grateful that you did not ask her to explain why it lacks such punctuation.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@united
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