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Teach son shrug shows disrespect

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Shrugs have always been poor manners, or at least that is what I was taught. When asked a question, you should give a proper verbal answer.

My stepson has now started to shrug in response to things, and then actually to say “Shrug” as his verbal response. I have not corrected him, and he does not mean to give offense. I’m just puzzled.

If you verbally say “Shrug” as an indication of your disinterest/not caring about a question, is that considered a proper verbal response?

By the way, the statement of nonverbals seems to be catching among the teenage generation. I’ve also heard “Yawn” to indicate boredom and “Gulp” to indicate trouble. Maybe it’s all that texting.

GENTLE READER: It might be an even older phenomenon, namely comic books.

The rudeness is not the fact of the shrug being nonverbal – presumably you do not have a court reporter handy who needs oral responses – but rather that it shows disrespect. This is true however the shrug is conveyed.

As parents, you or your husband should talk to your stepson and tell him that this is not acceptable behavior. Miss Manners recommends avoiding the phrases “Kapow!” and “Bam!”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I had a fight with my girlfriend and we haven’t spoken since the week before Thanksgiving. She left a Christmas gift at my house today. I do not want to continue our relationship. What should I do with the gift?

GENTLE READER: Return it, with a polite note of thanks and the explanation that under the circumstances, you do not feel you can take advantage of her generosity. Not returning it would signal a possible willingness to return, Miss Manners must warn you.

Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website,; to her email,; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.
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